Fact check: R. Kelly remains behind bars, despite false claims based on old photo

The claim: R. Kelly is out of jail

An old image of R. Kelly is being used on social media to claim the controversial R&B artist, who is currently awaiting trial on sex abuse charges, was recently released from jail. 

Kelly, 54, has remained behind bars in Illinois since his 2019 arrest and is charged with multiple sex crimes in three different states and four jurisdictions. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include sexual exploitation, racketeering and filming himself having sex with minors. 

“R Kelly out,” reads the caption of a June 3 Facebook image from the fan page Nipsey Hussle Entertainment with more than 15,000 shares. The photo shows Kelly in a red sweater walking out of a facility alongside a man wearing a black coat.

Similar versions of the claim with the same photo have been shared widely on Facebook and Instagram. 

But the claims are false. Kelly remains in custody, and the photo presented as evidence was actually taken two years ago. 

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users for comment. 

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Image is from 2019

Despite what is being shared on social media, Kelly has not been released from jail. Records from the Federal Bureau of Prisons show Kelly is in custody awaiting trial.

The photo included in the posts was taken by Associated Press photographer Paul Beaty on March 9, 2019. It shows Kelly walking out of Cook County Jail in Chicago with attorney Steve Greenberg, who recently asked to step back from Kelly’s case in a letter to a federal judge in New York, ABC 7 Chicago reported. 

Kelly was released in 2019 after an anonymous person paid $161,663 in child support Kelly owed to his ex-wife. 

However, Kelly was arrested again in Chicago on July 11, 2019, and charged with 13 federal counts, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. 

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A search of the singer’s full name, Robert Sylvester Kelly, on the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate database shows he is being housed at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center as of June 9.

Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn federal court is scheduled to start on Aug. 9 after several delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, per the Associated Press. Separately, his trial in Illinois is set to begin Sept. 13. 

USA TODAY reached out to Kelly’s lawyers for additional comment. 

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Our rating: False

The claim that Kelly was released from jail is FALSE, based on our research. The image being used to make the claim is from March 2019, when he was released from jail after child support payments owed to his ex-wife were paid. Prison records show Kelly is still in custody at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Our fact-check sources:

  • United States Department of Justice, July 12, 2019, Recording Artist R. Kelly Arrested on Federal Child Pornography and Obstruction Charges
  • Associated Press Images, March 9, 2019, APTOPIX R KELLY CHICAGO
  • CBS Chicago, March 9, 2019, R. Kelly Released From Cook County After Arrest For Failing To Pay Child Support
  • ABC 7 Chicago, June 8, R. Kelly’s lawyers request to withdraw from NY racketeering trail; others say they were fired
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons, accessed June 9, Find an inmate
  • Associated Press, April 15, Judge allows R. Kelly to be moved to NYC for sex-trafficking trial after several delays
  • PolitiFact, June 4, An old photo of R. Kelly leaving jail is being shared online but the singer is still in custody

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