Lawyer Michael Avenatti said Thursday that he has turned over to the Cook County, Ill., state’s attorney a VHS tape that, according to him, shows R. Kelly engaging in sexual activity with a minor. The prosecutor’s office would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was underway, a spokesman said.
Avenatti told The Washington Post that the video, which he said was recorded in Illinois, is a “bombshell” and “the break that prosecutors have needed for the better part of 20 years.” He wrote in a tweeted statement that the depicted acts are within Illinois’ statute of limitations.
Avenatti — known for representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in litigation against President Trump — said he represents three clients connected to assault allegations against the R&B musician, including a man who claims he has worked with and known Kelly for years and also knows the identity of the girl on the tape. According to Avenatti, the tape is 45 minutes long. The Post could not independently verify its contents; CNN, which has viewed it, reported graphic details.
Attorney Gloria Allred told The Post by phone Friday that she had contacted law enforcement about the tape because she believes a client of hers might be the alleged victim. “I am very troubled that this tape has been viewed by the press and by other persons who are not law enforcement,” Allred added in an emailed statement. She wrote that, if the person is confirmed to be a client, “we will do everything legally possible to protect her and her rights.”
Steve Greenberg, an attorney for Kelly, issued a lengthy statement Thursday saying he had not been aware of the existence of such a video until he was asked to respond to Avenatti’s tweet. “The calls and emails I received were the first I’ve heard of these allegations,” Greenberg wrote. He questioned CNN’s account of what the video entailed and stated that neither he nor Kelly had been contacted by law enforcement.
“Mr. Kelly denies that he has engaged in any illegal conduct, of any kind whatsoever,” the statement read.
Kelly has long denied sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Jim DeRogatis, who has been reporting on allegations against Kelly for years, reported Thursday in the New Yorker that the tape could lead to an indictment soon, citing a senior law-enforcement official.
Gerald Griggs, the Georgia-based lawyer who represents Timothy and JonJelyn Savage, who claim their daughter Joycelyn is being held by Kelly against her will, said several of his clients have been “in direct contact” with the Cook County district attorney’s office since the airing of Lifetime’s widely watched docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Griggs said at least one of his clients will be traveling to Cook County in the coming week to meet with district attorney Kim Foxx. He said he doesn’t know what the meeting will entail.
A spokesman for the Fulton County district attorney declined to comment on reports that the district attorney began investigating allegations against Kelly in the past month.
R. Kelly has been under heightened scrutiny since the broadcast of “Surviving R. Kelly,” which examined years of allegations against the musician. The six-part series featured interviews with women who say he sexually abused them. In some cases, they allege he held them against their will or initiated sexual relationships when they were underage.
“Surviving R. Kelly,” which drew an average of 2.1 million viewers over its three-night run, also renewed interest in possible legal action against the R&B singer. Foxx said her office was flooded with calls in the show’s aftermath, and she held a news conference asking for witnesses or victims to come forward.
“There is nothing to be done to investigate these allegations without the cooperation of both victims and witnesses,” Foxx said at the time. “We cannot seek justice without you.”
Amid mounting pressure, the singer and the Sony subsidiary RCA Records parted ways.
Kelly illegally married his 15-year-old protege, Aaliyah, in 1994, when he was 27. The marriage was annulled the next year. In 2000, DeRogatis, then a music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, co-wrote the first exposé on Kelly’s alleged pattern of pursuing underage girls. DeRogatis was anonymously sent a nearly 27-minute sex tape in 2002 and turned it over to the authorities.
Kelly was charged with child pornography and, after several delays, was tried in 2008. Prosecutors alleged that the tape showed him sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, and more than a dozen witnesses identified the other person in the tape as a minor. Neither the alleged victim nor her parents testified, and Kelly was acquitted on all 14 counts against him.
Avenatti said he began representing clients connected to the R. Kelly allegations pro-bono 10 months ago.
This story has been updated.