After Death, Rape Allegations Haunt Chuck Berry

As the world mourns the demise of a man arguably called the “Father of Rock and Roll,” showering him with befitting tributes, many have sought to recollect Chuck Berry’s past run-ins with the law, mainly his conviction for a sex-related offense and allegations of being a rapist.

The legend was convicted in 1961, following a retrial after an earlier conviction in the case a year before, not for rape, but for transporting a woman, a Native American, across state borders for immoral purposes. The teenager, Janice Escalante, according to The Telegraph, told the police she had sexual relationship with Berry which the singer denied, though it was later revealed the duo shared a motel room. Berry reportedly said he thought Escalante was 21. He was convicted and sentenced to prison.

News of Chuck Berry’s death saw an outpouring of tributes, but not without reference to the convictions and some alleging he raped and abused women.

While those that spoke about his conviction mentioned rape, only a few pointed out that Chuck Berry was convicted under the Mann Act, which History describes as a law originally intended to curb prostitution. Berry’s conviction under the act, and that of boxing great Jack Johnson, are two cases of high-profile instances.

In his defense, Berry had claimed he offered Escalante employment in his St. Louis nightclub after he met her in Mexico, according to History. She approached the police three weeks after being fired from the club, following a chain of events that eventually led to his arrest based on allegations of rape. During his time in prison, according to his 1987 autobiography, which was referenced by Independent, Chuck Berry learned about law, business management, and accounting.

Notwithstanding the changes in the music world following his release after nearly two years in prison, Berry produced some of his career’s biggest hits after 1963, including “No Particular Place to Go,” “Nadine,” and “You Never Can Tell,” Raresoul notes.

In the 1990s, Chuck Berry was accused of secretly filming women in bathrooms. Though these allegations never went to court, The Telegraph reports they were settled out of court, for about $ 1.2 million. Allegations abound about officers finding video tapes of women on Berry’s estate.

In what is widely regarded as his first issue with law, much before allegations of rape first surfaced, Berry served two years in prison for looting at gunpoint and acts of robbery in Kansas City. He was 19 then, Independent writes. Much later, the rock and roll legend’s third conviction, for tax evasion in 1979, again not for rape or sex-related offenses, earned him a four-month prison sentence.

News of Chuck Berry’s death on Saturday came after St. Charles County Police confirmed that efforts to revive him at his home had failed. An emergency call was made from the St. Louis singer’s home.

“Inside, medical personnel observed an unresponsive man and immediately administered lifesaving techniques. Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m. The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry. The family requests privacy during this time of bereavement.”

Word of Chuck Berry’s death saw responses from noted exponents of music, and others, including former president Barack Obama.

Chuck Berry, without doubt the greatest rock and roll songwriter of all time. The architect of how rock and roll guitars would sound forever. A true giant of a talent. Thanks for making all those wonderful records that will define rock music forever. #RIPChuckBerry.

[Featured Image by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images]