Noting that the R&B singer R. Kelly is facing decades in prison after two federal convictions, the top prosecutor in Chicago said on Monday that her office planned to drop its sexual abuse charges against him.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office had been waiting for its turn to bring Mr. Kelly, 56, to trial, which it could not do before the federal court cases in New York and Chicago were brought to a jury.
In 2021, Mr. Kelly was convicted on racketeering and sex trafficking charges, for which he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Last year, he was convicted on sex crimes charges, including coercing minors into sexual activity and producing sex tapes involving a minor. He is scheduled to be sentenced for that conviction next month, which could add decades to the total.
“Mr. Kelly is potentially looking at never walking out of prison again for the crimes he’s committed,” Kim Foxx, the Cook County state’s attorney, said at a news conference in which she announced plans to drop the charges. “We believe that justice has been served.”
A lawyer for Mr. Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, who is mounting appeals in both federal jurisdictions, said she viewed the decision as a “sound use of prosecutorial discretion.”
“At some point there comes a piling-on that is unnecessary,” Ms. Bonjean said, adding, “We have much more fighting to do.”
Mr. Kelly is being held in federal prison in Chicago.
The charges in Cook County, brought nearly four years ago, were a turning point in Mr. Kelly’s lengthy downfall.
After a Chicago Sun-Times report alleging that he abused minors, and a failed prosecution in Chicago in 2008, Mr. Kelly became the focus of renewed scrutiny in the wake of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which was broadcast in January 2019 and included testimony from several women who accused the singer of abuse dating back to the 1990s.
After the documentary aired, Ms. Foxx made a remarkable public request, asking anyone with sexual abuse allegations against Mr. Kelly to come forward.
A month later, Mr. Kelly was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims, three of whom were underage. Mr. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the charges, and he sat down for an infamous television interview with Gayle King of CBS News, in which he screamed, cursed and claimed that he did not do what he was accused of.
Ms. Foxx spoke about the case against Mr. Kelly in unusually personal terms: She had been attending a Chicago high school when he was a rising R&B artist in the city, and a sex crimes prosecutor there when Mr. Kelly was tried on child pornography charges in 2008 and ultimately acquitted. Ms. Foxx has also divulged her own accounts of sexual abuse when she was a child.
“I know firsthand how difficult it is for you to tell your stories,” Ms. Foxx said on Monday, noting that one of the accusers was disappointed by the decision because she had not yet had her day in court.
Others involved in the case had also been involved in Mr. Kelly’s federal trial, in which a jury convicted him on six of 13 charges. The jury found the singer guilty of producing three videos of himself abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter, who took the stand last year after her direct testimony was not part of the 2008 case.
Mr. Kelly was acquitted of a charge that he had attempted to obstruct an earlier investigation about his treatment of his goddaughter, among others.
Part of the thinking in dropping the charges, Ms. Foxx said, was a desire to focus resources on alleged perpetrators who still walk free. She said the decision was not related to financial calculations or questions about whether the prosecution would be successful.
“There are survivors — hundreds of survivors — whose files remain on our desks,” she said. “That was the calculation we made.”
Robert Chiarito contributed reporting from Chicago.