The case against R. Kelly has been building for years.
The controversial singer, now 52, was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, but numerous women have accused Kelly of sexual misconduct throughout his career. When it premiered in January, Lifetime’s explosive documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” put a spotlight on those accusations and a criminal case against the artist soon followed, pursued by Kim Foxx.
So, just who is Kim Foxx, and in what's her involvement in the criminal case against R. Kelly?
Foxx is currently the State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, and she became a key player in Kelly’s legal battle when she made a public plea in January for any victims of R. Kelly to reach out to her office.
Foxx called the press conference just days after the premiere of the Lifetime documentary, and she addressed the allegations made against Kelly in the film, calling the claims “deeply, deeply disturbing” and sharing her own feelings on the case.
“I was sickened by the allegations. I was sickened as a survivor. I was sickened as a mother. I’m sickened as a prosecutor,” she said. “I worked in this office for a number of years, including in 2008, and so the allegations were not new to me, but I think listening to survivors, and giving a platform to survivors to be able to tell their stories, was heartbreaking.”
Foxx’s position is a unique one, explained Shaila Dewan, national criminal justice editor for The New York Times, during Lifetime’s follow-up special, “Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact.”
“Kim Foxx is a very special case,” she said. “Eight-five percent of prosecutors are white men and about 1 to 2 percent are black women. Not only that, she herself is a victim of child sexual abuse.”
In 2016, Foxx, 46, was the first black woman to be elected the Cook County state’s attorney, according to The New York Times. When she began working in the office as a prosecutor in 2001, she focused on trying cases that involved people who had been victimized by more powerful individuals, the paper reports. It’s an area that she had some personal experience in; as a child, she was molested by an older male cousin and, on another occasion, raped after two boys pulled her into a house on her way home school.
Foxx told The Times that she made her public plea in order to give survivors a chance to tell their stories.
“I hope that the public has seen that there is a real need to have conversations about sexual abuse and sexual assault, particularly with young victims,” she said.
Foxx’s decision to address the public has been met with some criticism, however, particularly from Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, who slammed Foxx during an interview with the Chicago Tribune in January.
“The idea that a prosecutor would solicit potential victims like a late-night personal injury attorney is offensive,” he said. “People know if they are a victim of a crime to contact the police. … Nobody has come forward and said they were the victim of any misconduct by Mr. Kelly because nobody has been.”
Katie Phang, a legal contributor to NBC News, explained during “Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact,” why Foxx’s press conference was considered so controversial.
“There’s a lot of criticism for that move,” she said. “It’s the idea that she was asking for victims to come forward and maybe even giving them a vehicle to be able to perhaps lie against R. Kelly, to bring false claims against R. Kelly.”
Others, however, supported Foxx’s very public stance on the case.
“The message that I got from it was, ‘Finally. Finally, someone’s taking us seriously. Finally, someone’s listening,’” music journalist Shani Saxon said during “The Impact.” “And, more importantly, someone who’s in a position of power, someone who can actually affect real change is paying attention and taking action.”
Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse in February, with prosecutors claiming that he victimized three girls and one woman. (Prosecutors are also believed to be in possession of multiple tapes that show Kelly sexually assaulting an underage girl, but the singer’s lawyer denies as much.)
The Kelly case isn't the only prominent one Foxx has been involved in recently. Her office has come under fire for its handling of the Jussie Smollett case. The "Empire" actor was accused by Chicago police of falsely claiming to have been the victim of a racist, homophobic hate crime - a claim that resulted in weeks of investigation by law enforcement. Foxx's office ultimately dismissed the charges against Smollett in exchange for community service and the forfeiture of his $10,000 bond, prompting criticism from the police and the city of Chicago.
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