R. Kelly in court Tuesday. TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
R. Kelly will get a do-over in a civil sexual abuse lawsuit filed against him.
After failing to show up to court last month, Kelly, 52, lost the lawsuit by default against a woman who alleges the R&B singer sexually abused her as a teenager. In the lawsuit, which was filed in February, the alleged victim, who is identified in court documents as H.W., claimed that in 1998, when she was 16, Kelly began sexually abusing her, according to the Chicago Tribune. She is now 36 and seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
The woman is one of the four alleged victims Kelly was charged with abusing in February, for which the singer faces 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
A Chicago judge issued a default judgment in the case in April, as neither Kelly nor his lawyers had filed an answer to the suit, or made an appearance in court. On Wednesday, Judge Moira Johnson vacated the default judgment she had previously entered against Kelly, attorneys confirmed to PEOPLE. The lawsuit will now proceed with a new date of June 19, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Johnson’s judgment came after attorneys for Kelly claimed the singer is illiterate and couldn’t read the lawsuit documents.
“The defendant does not recall being served,” Kelly’s attorneys Raed Shalabi and Zaid Abdallah said in an April 26 court filing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “The Defendant suffers from a learning disability that adversely affects his ability to read, in essence he cannot.”
“Our position is that these allegations are meritless and it’s just a ploy for money,” Raed Shalabi, an attorney for Kelly, told PEOPLE on Wednesday. “We as a law firm have never seen an alleged victim file a civil case during a criminal case in which the only remedy they are seeking is money.”
Shalabi continued: “We feel that R Kelly is being vilified in the media — people are already presuming he is guilty without any evidence been shown so far in the criminal or civil case, yet victims are able to file civil suits in which they’re just requesting money and nothing is being said about that.”
In response, Jeffrey Deutschman, the attorney for the alleged victim, told PEOPLE, “At the time we filed, the indictment hadn’t come down. This is a childhood sexual abuse case with a potential statute of limitations. When I get a case like this, in order to prevent any issues I file immediately.”
Deutschman also told reporters that he and his client are “happy to have our day in court if that’s what [Kelly] wants. We don’t envision the jury will find anything but that the defendant abused my client when she was a minor.”
The lawsuit alleges that on the alleged victims’ birthday in 1998, when she turned 16, she was approached on the Chicago street by Kelly, according to The New York Times.
In the lawsuit, the woman goes on to allege that later that day, she was given Kelly’s number by one of the singer’s associates and was told Kelly wanted to “have her come to his studio and be in a video that he was making,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
R. Kelly on Wednesday, May 8. Matt Marton/AP/REX/Shutterstock
According to the suit, the alleged sexual abuse started around June 1998, during which Kelly “had sexual intercourse with the minor plaintiff” and also “engaged in oral sex” with her, the outlet reported.
The suit went on to state that the alleged victim decided to come forward after attending therapy, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Kelly appeared in court Wednesday afternoon for a separate hearing regarding his ongoing child support case.
Amid his legal trouble, Kelly also gave an emotionally charged interview with Gayle King, during which the singer grew increasingly upset as he denied the allegations made against him.
“Forget how you feel about me! Hate me if you want to, love me if you want, but use your common sense!” he told King during the CBS This Morning interview. “How stupid would it be for me with my crazy past and what I’ve been through to be like, ‘Oh right now, I think I need to be a monster and hold girls against their will, chain ’em up in my basement and don’t let ’em eat and don’t let ’em out?’”
In February, the R&B star was indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four alleged victims. All were referred to only by their initials, and three were specifically referred to as under the age of 17.
For the fourth alleged victim, whose age was not specified, the grand jury found one count of aggravated sexual abuse “based on the transmission of semen by Robert Kelly upon any part of the body of the [alleged] victim for the purpose of sexual gratification.”
The alleged incidents all occurred between May 1998 and January 2010.
Gayle King and R. Kelly. Lazarus Jean-Baptiste/CBS
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of three to seven years per charge, and is probationable.
Kelly, who has repeatedly denied all claims against him, was previously arrested in 2002 on child pornography charges. Six years later, a Cook County jury found Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts.
Kelly’s alleged behavior came to the media forefront again in July 2017, when BuzzFeed published a bombshell report accusing the star of running a “sex cult” out of his Chicago and Atlanta-area homes, and after the release of Surviving R. Kelly in January.
According to those reports, the star allegedly seduced a number of young women with the promise of helping them kickstart a music career, only to “groom” them into being his personal sex objects for whom he allegedly controlled every aspect of their lives.
If you suspect domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.