Jim DeRogatis: Parents Claim R. Kelly is Holding Women in a ‘Cult’

For almost 17 years, music journalist and critic Jim DeRogatis has been covering allegations against R&B singer-songwriter R. Kelly.

Kelly was famously tried and acquitted of child pornography charges in Chicago, and has been the subject of numerous sex-related accusations and civil suits.

Now, in a BuzzFeed News article, DeRogatis outlines charges that Kelly is keeping a group of women in a cult-like environment in his homes in Atlanta and Chicago.

“Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle … said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records,” DeRogatis writes.

The article details ongoing efforts by the parents of an aspiring singer who first met R. Kelly backstage at a concert two years ago. Her parents have told the police that the young woman “is ‘being held against her will’ in what they call a ‘cult.’”

Though the woman’s parents are not referred to by their full names in the article, Timothy and Jonjelyn Savage have since stepped forward publicly and continued to press their claims against Kelly.

“My daughter is severely brainwashed. She’s brainwashed to the point where she says anything that (Kelly) asks her to say,” Jonjelyn Savage said at a press conference. “We just want him to release her and let her go on with her life, because he’s affected too many young girls over the years. I just want her home, and to try to get her rehabilitated to the Joycelyn that we know and miss.”

“Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him,” attorney Linda Mensch said in a statement. “Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.”

In an interview with TMZ, Joycelyn Savage admitted her contact with her parents has been intermittent, but said she’s not brainwashed.

“I just want everybody to know – my parents, and everybody in the world – that I am totally fine. I’m happy where I’m at and everything is okay with me,” Joycelyn Savage said. When asked by TMZ where she currently is and whether she’s free to leave, Savage declined to comment.

R. Kelly has faced a series of accusations and lawsuits going back to the 1990s. In 1994, Kelly, then 27, married the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15, after falsifying a marriage certificate. The marriage was quickly annulled. In 1996, Kelly was hit with the first of many lawsuits by a woman accusing him of beginning a sexual relationship with her when she was 15.

Most famously, Kelly was found not guilty on child pornography charges in Cook County in 2008. He was also charged with child pornography in Florida, though those charges were later dropped.

Despite the long history of claims against him, R. Kelly’s career has continued relatively unabated. Speaking with the Village Voice in 2013, DeRogatis lamented the fact that a long-running string of disturbing accusations hadn’t diminished Kelly’s success.

“The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women,” DeRogatis said. “Nobody.”

DeRogatis joins Chicago Tonight for a conversation about the article published this week in BuzzFeed News. DeRogatis is the co-host of “Sound Opinions” on WBEZ.