Popular R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty on Friday in a New York court to federal charges including racketeering that allege he systematically recruited girls for sex while touring.
The disgraced superstar who for decades has faced sexual abuse accusations was brought to the Brooklyn courthouse from Chicago, where he was being held without bond on separate federal charges linked to child pornography.
“Yes sir,” was all Kelly, dressed in blue prison scrubs, said during the arraignment, when asked by the judge whether he understood the charges against him.
His two girlfriends and some family members were in court, along with around a dozen fans.
One wore a t-shirt that had “Free R Kelly” written on the front and “Unmute R Kelly” on the back. A couple had also made crowns with his image on it and the words “Justice 4 R Kelly”
The New York indictment unsealed last month says Kelly, 52, would regularly issue wristbands to girls via his associates that granted them backstage access and face time with the musician known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Kelly would tell members of his entourage to obtain contact information from girls he wished to see again, the charges read, some of whom were invited to later concerts and provided with lodging.
Girls were to call Kelly “Daddy” and stay inside their rooms without permission from the singer to leave, even to eat or use the restroom, according to court documents.
The New York case involves five unidentified women, three of whom were minors at the time of the alleged crimes, which include coercing sexual activity.
He is also accused of kidnapping one of the victims, and exposing another to a venereal disease without her knowledge.
Kelly, whose given name is Robert Kelly, additionally faces charges of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for purposes of prostitution.