190718 R. Kelly
R. Kelly Image Credit: AP

The difference between R Kelly’s life in 2002 when he was last charged with child sex-related crimes and his arrest last week on even more serious charges was on full display when the R&B singer turned and slowly walked out of court.

Each step was cut shorter than normal by the shackles around his ankles — a reminder of how small his world has become and how the advantages he once possessed have vanished. He was not posting bond and leaving by the front door to return to his life as an international recording artist as he did 17 years ago. He was heading back to a federal jail cell knowing there’s a good chance he will stay there for months or even years before his case comes to trial, after a judge said the charges against him are too serious to release him on bond.

In the space of an hour, a federal prosecutor and Kelly’s own lawyer outlined many of the ways the 52-year-old singer’s life has changed. When he eventually went to trial in on child pornography charges in 2008, his lawyers convinced a jury that Kelly was not guilty and prosecutors couldn’t prove that it was Kelly or a certain 14-year-old girl in a grainy sex video.

The federal indictments in New York and Chicago accuse Kelly of kidnapping and coercing women and girls into having sex, producing and receiving child pornography, inducing minors to engage in sexual activity, and taking part in a conspiracy worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover up sex crimes going back decades. Kelly, who has been in jail since Friday, was arrested on state sexual abuse and sexual assault charges involving three minors and one woman over roughly a 10-year period. As with his not guilty plea to the federal charges, he has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the case in 2008 and now is the girl at the centre of the charges. She didn’t testify then, perhaps as Assistant US Attorney Angel Krull suggested to US District Judge Harry Leinenweber, because Kelly paid her off. But in this case, she has already told her story.

“The victim has testified it was Kelly who did this,” Krull said.

Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said his client is being held in isolation where he doesn’t even have access to television, and about the only technology he is afforded is a telephone for no more than a few minutes a week.

“He has no money,” Greenberg told the judge.

In fact, he is so short of funds that after he was arrested in February he sat in jail until a fan put up the $100,000 to bail him out.