CNN reports that disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that he sexually abused women and girls. The charges include sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, forced labor, and racketeering. The news comes not long after The Inquisitr reported that Kelly arrived at a New Jersey airport Thursday shackled and wearing a tan prison uniform. After being taken into a police truck, the singer was reportedly transported to Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center and then the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Kelly was arrested last month in the Eastern District of New York for allegedly violating the Mann Act. He is accused of coercing and transporting women and girls across the United States — Illinois, Connecticut, California, and New York — to engage in illegal sexual activity. The allegations stem as far back as 1999 and involve five Jane Does — three allegedly are minors.
During his court appearance Friday, Kelly reportedly had a full beard, an orange T-shirt, orange sneakers, and a navy, short-sleeved prison uniform. Despite the allegations against him, supporters showed up to the courtroom — including women with "Free R. Kelly" and "Unmute R. Kelly" shirts. Some women also gathered to pray for the singer before his arraignment.
"I've always supported him for many years," said Ruthie Castro of Pennsylvania, one of his supporters.According to the New York federal prosecutors that brought the charges against Kelly, the singer and members of his entourage — including his managers, drivers, personal assistants, and bodyguards — are part of an organized crime ring.
"The purposes of the Enterprise were to promote R. Kelly's music and the R. Kelly brand and to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity," they wrote in an indictment, per NPR. "By promoting R. Kelly's music and the R. Kelly brand, the members of the Enterprise expected to receive financial opportunities and personal benefits, including increased power and status within the Enterprise."
Per The Inquisitr, R. Kelly recently named-dropped Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga in an attempt to clear his name. Yahoo News reports that court documents argue that Kelly has worked with "every major superstar from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga" and has sold millions of records as well as outline his long recording career in what appears to be an attempt to make the accusations against him appear less significant.
In addition to Kelly's federal charges, NPR reports that he is also facing 10 charges of aggravated sexual abuse in Cook County, Illinois.