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Despite Charges, Fans Show Up For R. Kelly Springfield Visit

Artist R. Kelly was in Springfield last weekend, where according to TMZ and their sources, the singer earned $20,000 for a one hour show to meet with fans. But his actual show was allegedly no more than a minute and fans paid up to $100 to see him. R. Kelly took to Instagram to address the media before his appearance, asking them to "take it easy on him."

R. Kelly has been charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse in Chicago — issues that are not new for the R&B singer. 

To talk more about these allegations and R. Kelly's financial fallout we spoke with Kathy Chaney, Deputy Managing Editor, Breaking News and Staff Development for the Chicago Sun-Times. She has been covering R. Kelly for more than a decade. 

*Interview transcript lightly edited for clarity & time.

Daisy Contreras: I did speak to a fan who went to see R. Kelly in Springfield. She didn't want to be recorded for radio, but she did tell me she believes R.Kelly hasn't had a fair chance. She said to me, and I quote, “I still support him as an artist. But if he's convicted, that might change." She said she thinks there are different standards for different people and R. Kelly is being held at a different and unfair standard, because he's famous. Kathy, you've had similar reactions from other fans.

Kathy Chaney:  Yes, it's no different from all the other fans who continue to support him. And he’s had new fans that have popped up in the wake of the new allegations, in the wake of him being acquitted from the first trial. I don't think he's being held to a different standard. The charges are serious. And even though he was found acquitted in the first trial, similar allegations have continued to come up over the years and now he's being charged again with 10 counts of even more serious charges along the same lines. So, yes, people are innocent until proven guilty. But it would seem like it would give you a little bit of pause, because everyone's trying to sift through everything to find out what's going on. I use caution to completely say I still fully support someone, you know, while they're going through this. Yes, again, innocent until proven guilty, but I would be cautious because of the charges, and they're very similar from the ones that he was acquitted from. 

D.C.: You mentioned that R. Kelly actually gained new fans through the media attention he's been getting after the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly came out, how can we explain this? 

K.C.: I will just say that from talking to a few supporters, and a few new supporters — it just all stemmed around that he was acquitted. Some people who really didn't listen to his music before, but they saw the docuseries. They wanted to go back and listen to some lyrics and then they just listened to everything that the women were saying, they listened to everything he was saying. They listened to what he said in the Gayle King interview, and they wanted to give him a chance. Because some people feel like he's being railroaded. So, they jumped on board of the R. Kelly train and are now supporters and will listen to his music. All just for the simple fact that he was acquitted the first time and they feel that he's just being made, a sacrificial lamb for so many other artists who have supposedly gotten away with doing similar things and then haven't been on trial and things like that. So I mean, the fans are — they are relentless. 

D.C.: Going back to R.Kelly's Instagram video, he said this show in Springfield was the only way he can earn money and asked the news media to take it easy on him. Are these shows examples of his desperation for money? There have been accounts that he has been struggling financially.

K.C.: Oh, I absolutely believe that. Where else would his money be coming in from? And he said that, it's hard for him to continue to book tours, different little things like that. So, I do believe that whatever he can try to get is what he's going to try to do. So, I wouldn't be surprised if he's popping up in smaller towns, doing smaller venues to get money because, again, where else is it coming from? 

D.C.: Kathy, let's talk about the media coverage in Springfield for this event. Do you feel there was a difference in media coverage than let's say if R. Kelly had appeared in Chicago? 

K.C.: Absolutely. In Chicago, we're just always on top of it. Everyone's always looking out for you know, what's going wrong with him next, where is he? We have like a leg up on things. Springfield — that's downstate. The media coverage is different. It's more of a political town, with political media – focusing more on that. So, I'm not surprised that it got little coverage. I completely expected the Associated Press to be on top of the story. But, again, if you have some fans that are down there, it could have been strategic to make sure that it was kept a little quieter than normal so it wouldn't get as much press attention than it did. 

D.C.: And for those who haven't been really keeping up with the accusations against the singer, Kathy can give us a breakdown of what's been happening and any recent developments?

K.C: R. Kelly, right now he's out on bond. So, he is not a free man, but he's out on bond. And he is pretty much free to try to make some money, but he has been—his efforts have been hampered where some places, some venues don't want him, some countries don't want him to come and perform. So, he's been having those types of challenges. He’s right now dealing with that. He's dealing with his child support case and trying to get that all together, where those court records are sealed. So, we really don't know what deal was made with that and how everything is going. He’s basically trying to reclaim his life while he's awaiting trial. And his biggest hurdle is just trying to make some money so he can live. 

D.C: And this is not new, we said this before, this is not new for R. Kelly.  He has faced charges in the past, what is different with the current charges that he's facing? 

K.C.: This is not new for Chicago. We've been here before, as you said, the charges in the first trial, they were centered on child pornography, because those were the easiest charges to charge at that time based on the evidence. So, this time around, and I know that R. Kelly said especially on the Gayle King interview on CBS that he was acquitted, why is he being charged with the same thing?  He's not being charged with the same thing this time around. First time around it was child pornography charges, this time around, alleged sexual assault, sexual abuse charges, so completely different. And there's more evidence and there are more witnesses and alleged victims that are speaking out. So those are the key differences is that there appears to be more evidence, and more victims coming out to speak versus the first trial. 

D.C.: What do we expect to see in the next few months in the next few years? Do we think it will take a long time for a trial to take place?

K.C.: It took years for the first trial to even come to fruition. This time around, I don't think it's going to take years. I can't pinpoint a time frame because of all the different things with the court motions and things like that, but I definitely feel confident in saying, I don't think it's going to take some years, like six years like the first trial. I don't want to say it's going to be speedy trial, where in a few months, you know they are going to set a trial date or anything, but I do think the trial will happen much sooner than it did the first time around. 

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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