R. Kelly has been accused of holding women in a “cult,” according to a report published Monday by BuzzFeed.

The report follows a string of major headlines for the 50-year-old R&B star, who has been sued by multiple women and previously battled child pornography charges. Here are the controversies you should know about.

Marriage to Aaliyah, August 1994

Kelly was 27 years old when he married his manager’s niece, 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, who said she was 18 years old on the marriage certificate, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in December 2000.

Aaliyah’s family learned about the marriage and split the couple up, according to WBEZ. The marriage was annulled in October 1994.

In 1997, Aaliyah sought to have the marriage records expunged, the Sun-Times reported. She died in an August 2001 plane crash at age 21.

In a GQ interview published in 2016, the topic of the reported marriage came up. Kelly responded that “because of Aaliyah’s passing, as I’ve always said, out of respect for her mother who’s sick and her father who’s passed, I will never have that conversation with anyone.”  

Tiffany Hawkins sues R. Kelly for $10 million on Christmas Eve, December 1996

Hawkins alleged that she had a sexual relationship with Kelly which started when she was 15 years old in 1991 and stopped in 1994, according to the Sun-Times. Hawkins also claimed that Kelly “encouraged her to participate in group sex with him and other underage girls,” the report said.

Kelly reportedly settled with Hawkins for $250,000 in 1998. Kelly’s attorney Gerry Margolis told the Sun-Times that “the settlement is confidential, I have nothing else to say about that case now or ever.”

Tracy Sampson sues Kelly for $50,000, August 2001

Sampson alleged she and Kelly had a sexual relationship from 2000 to 2001 and that he knew she was 17, according to MTV. Kelly said that he didn’t have sex with Sampson, the Sun-Times reported, and he settled with her for an undisclosed amount in April 2002. 

Video is sent anonymously to the Sun-Times, February 2002

A video which purportedly depicted Kelly and an underage girl engaging in graphic sex acts was mailed to the Sun-Times, the newspaper said in a February 2002 article, which said that police were investigating.

“Any tape you have is a fake, and we find the timing of these events to be extremely suspicious,” Kelly’s attorney John M. Touhy told the Sun-Times. 

Patrice Jones files $50,000 lawsuit against Kelly, April 2002

Jones was 20 when she sued Kelly, alleging that she met him in 1998 when she was 16 and that they had a sexual relationship which lasted nine months, MTV reported. Jones also claimed that Kelly pressured to her to have an abortion when she was 17. 

Kelly’s attorney Gerry Margolis was quoted as saying at the time that the lawsuit “is a collection of half-truths, distortions and outright lies that we intend to fight and beat.” The singer settled with Jones for an undisclosed amount.


Montina Woods sues Kelly, May 2002

Woods was 33 when she sued Kelly for $50,000 and alleged that Kelly had secretly recorded Woods and Kelly having sex at a Chicago music studio. A rep for Kelly told MTV, “This one falls under the category of people just piling on.” Kelly settled with the dancer for an undisclosed amount.

Kelly is indicted for 21 counts of child pornography, June 2002

Kelly was indicted in Chicago and was arrested at his Florida home. “Even though I don’t believe any of these charges are warranted, I’m grateful that I will have a chance to establish the truth about me in a court of law,” Kelly said in a statement. He pleaded not guilty.

Seven charges were dropped due to a technicality in February 2004, MTV reported at the time.

Kelly is acquitted of all 14 child pornography charges, June 2008

Kelly was acquitted after less than a day of deliberations in his child pornography trial. The Grammy award-winning singer had faced 15 years in prison if convicted.

The month-long trial centered on whether Kelly was the man who appeared on a sexually graphic videotape at the heart of the case, and whether a female who also appeared on it was underage.

Kelly and the alleged victim each denied they were the ones on the tape, and neither of them testified. Some witnesses identified the alleged victim as the woman on the tape, while others did not. 

“Cult” accusations, 2017

Kelly was accused of holding multiple women of legal age in a “cult,” according to allegations detailed by BuzzFeed. 

BuzzFeed cited three women who it said were once in the singer’s “inner circle.” The women claimed that Kelly houses six women at his Chicago and Atlanta properties and “controls every aspect of their lives” like food, clothing, and sexual activity, according to the report.

“You have to ask for food,” Kelly’s former assistant Cheryl Mack told BuzzFeed. “You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”

“Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name,” his attorney Linda Mensch told Page Six.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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