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A judge has agreed to throw out a default judgement in the sex abuse case of disgraced R&B star R. Kelly after his lawyers argued that the singer snubbed a court appearance because he could not read the summons.
A new team of attorneys for the embattled singer has reportedly convinced Cook County Judge Moira Johnson that R. Kelly did not show up in court to contest charges against him because he was unable to comprehend what was written in the summons. The lawyers said that he missed the hearing in the civil lawsuit filed by a woman identified only as ‘H.W.’ because he was in jail when he was served the papers and apparently had no one to help him read them.
The lawsuit was filed when Kelly was doing a brief stint in the Cook County Jail for failing to pay $160,000 in child support to his former wife and a day before he was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, including that of three underage girls.
His lawyer, Raed Shalabi, argued, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, that H.W., who is also a plaintiff in the criminal sexual abuse case, was aware that the criminal charges were about to be brought against Kelly and chose the timing of her lawsuit on purpose.
“When he got served, he got served while he was in jail. He didn’t know what the documents were. Once we found out there was a judgment against him we filed a motion to vacate right away,” Shalabi reportedly said after Wednesday’s hearing.
In her civil lawsuit against R. Kelly, H.W. claims that she first met him in May 1998 when she was 16. The woman said that she was “star struck” and thought she would be cast in a music video. However, a month after they met, the teenager became involved in a sexual relationship with Kelly. She claimed he persuaded her there was nothing abnormal about that relationship.
In a filing from April 26, Kelly’s legal team noted that the singer “suffers from a learning disability that adversely affects his ability to read,” to the point that he simply cannot do it.
Some have doubted the argument since before his dramatic fall from grace that followed a years-long trail of allegations of sexual abuse, Kelly built quite a career in the music industry as an established performer who also wrote and produced tracks for many artists. In 1996, he landed a Grammy nomination for writing the ballad ‘You Are Not Alone’ for Michael Jackson.
Last July, Kelly released a 19-minute song titled “I admit” in which he addressed the most egregious allegations against himself, such as operating a sex cult. While admitting that he had made “many mistakes,” he implied that none were punishable by law.
Allegations of sexual abuse, including that of minors, have been hanging over R. Kelly for over a decade. The singer was indicted on 13 counts of child pornography in 2002, but was acquitted of all charges in 2008. It was the release of the documentary series ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ in January that sparked new legal investigations into him.