Singer R. Kelly, facing sex abuse charges, gets $1 million bail

This booking photo obtained from the Chicago Police Department on February 23, 2019, shows singer R. Kelly. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
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Singer R. Kelly, facing sex abuse charges, gets $1 million bail

  • Two women who had previously publicly accused him of abuse came to court to observe the proceedings

CHICAGO: A US judge set $1 million bail for R&B superstar R. Kelly on Saturday after prosecutors laid out graphic details of charges that he sexually abused four victims, three of them minors.
Kelly, known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,” surrendered to police late Friday after decades of allegations of sexual abuse, especially of underage girls, led to the first sexual assault charges against him.
Kelly was acquitted in a child porn trial more than a decade ago, and had maintained a steady fan base and continued to perform.
But his fortunes changed after a docuseries last month led Chicago prosecutors to publicly seek out any potential victims.
A Chicago grand jury on Friday charged him with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four females, the youngest 14 years old at the time of the alleged crimes, which spanned between 1998 and 2010.
The charges carry three to seven years of prison per count.
A grave-faced Kelly appeared in a packed courtroom in a black hooded sweatshirt with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Two women who had previously publicly accused him of abuse came to court to observe the proceedings.
In setting bail, Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. ordered Kelly to have no contact with anyone under 18 years old, and to have no contact with any of the alleged victims or witnesses.
The singer also was required to relinquish his passport.
“He’s devastated,” Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg said. “Here is someone who at one point was a huge star. Now he is sitting behind bars.”

In the bail hearing, prosecutors offered new details of their case — including a shocking accusation that Kelly met one underage victim while giving autographs during his 2008 trial.
They described a video showing Kelly repeatedly having sex with a 14-year-old, DNA evidence from another victim’s shirt that they said matched Kelly’s and semen from yet another victim’s clothes that preliminary tests showed appeared to be his.
Prosecutor Kimberly Foxx told reporters that a witness, not publicly identified, had provided the video showing Kelly having oral and vaginal sex with the youngest girl sometime between 1998 and 2001, when he would have been in his early 30s.
“In the video,” the prosecutor said, “the victim repeatedly, repeatedly, says she is 14 years old.”
In 1998, Kelly allegedly met another girl at a restaurant where she was celebrating her 16th birthday party, invited her to his studio knowing her age, and had sex with her several times after that, each time giving her an envelope with “a large amount of money,” Foxx said.
In 2008, he allegedly met a girl who was under 17 years old while giving autographs during his criminal trial on child pornography charges, and had sex with her multiple times until 2010.
“At times, Robert Kelly would spit on her, slap her on her face and choke her,” the prosecution alleged in court.
Illinois outlaws sex with those under 17 when the partner is at least five years older. Kelly is now 52 and was 31 at the time of the earliest alleged abuse.
In the only case not involving minors, Kelly is accused of trying to force a 24-year-old hairdresser to provide him with oral sex in 2003. When she resisted, he “ejaculated onto the victim and spit in her face several times,” Foxx said.
DNA on the hairdresser’s shirt, tested by police, was found to match Kelly’s DNA profile, prosecutors said.

Although his bail was set at $1 million, Kelly needs to put up only a tenth that amount, or $100,000, to be let out of jail. But Kelly’s attorney was unsure when the singer would be able to pay.
“His finances are a mess,” Greenberg told the judge in court.
After the hearing, he told reporters Kelly would likely put up bail by Monday at the latest and poked holes in the prosecution’s case.
“He’s entitled to a presumption of innocence,” Greenberg said.
“He did not force anyone to have sex. He’s a rock star. He doesn’t have to have non-consensual sex.”
Kelly is next due in court Monday, at which time a trial judge will be assigned to his case. He is scheduled for a March 8 arraignment, when he will have an opportunity to enter a plea.
Allegations of child pornography, sex with minors and sexual battery have dogged Kelly for decades, yet he still managed to enjoy a successful music career.
The musician’s fortunes turned after last month’s broadcast of the docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which once again brought accusations against him to the fore.
High-profile lawyer Michael Avenatti and prominent women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred are representing clients linked to Kelly.
Kelly married his protege Aaliyah in 1994, when the late R&B star was 15 and Kelly was 27. He had produced the teenage singer’s debut album titled “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.”
Their marriage was later annulled, and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.


Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

Updated 19 July 2019
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Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

  • Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but ‘human-made’
  • Berkeley’s effort to be more inclusive is drawing both praise and scorn

BERKELEY, California: There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn.
That means “manpower” will become “human effort” or “workforce,” while masculine and feminine pronouns like “she,” “her,” “he” and “him” will be replaced by “they” and “them,” according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and “first of” ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the US to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation’s free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country’s political divisions soon after President Donald Trump’s election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like “men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government.”
“As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it’s important that our laws reflect that,” said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. “Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation.”
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title “first partner” instead of “first lady,” saying it’s more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom’s experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is “remarkable and sends a message,” Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
“Anytime you’re talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it’s a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender,” said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
For Hel Baker, a Berkeley home caregiver, the shift is a small step in the right direction.
“Anything that dismantles inherent bias is a good thing, socially, in the grand scheme of things,” the 27-year-old said.
“I don’t, by any means, think this is the great championing for gender equality, but you gotta start somewhere,” Hel added.
Lauren Singh, 18, who grew up in Berkeley, approved of the move, saying, “Everyone deserves to be represented and feel included in the community.”
Not everyone agreed with the new ordinance. Laramie Crocker, a Berkeley carpenter, said the changes just made him laugh.
“If you try to change the laws every time someone has a new opinion about something, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a bad habit to get into,” Crocker said.
Crocker, 54, said he would like city officials to focus on more pressing issues, like homelessness.
“Let’s keep it simple, get back to work,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to get homeless people housed and fed. He, she, they, it — they’re wasting my time.”