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Court says R Kelly victim should be able to claim damages she is due from his Sony Music royalties

By | Published on Monday 27 March 2023

R Kelly

Heather Williams, one of R Kelly’s sexual abuse victims, will be able to claim royalties due to the musician from Sony Music in lieu of a damages payment she is owed following a successful lawsuit.

Those royalties had been claimed by a bank which is also owed money by the jailed former pop star, but the Illinois Supreme Court last week ruled that Williams’ damages should take priority.

Kelly was sued by Williams in February 2019. She alleged that she first met Kelly in 1998 when she was sixteen and initially agreed to spend time with him at his studio because he promised to put her in a music video.

However the video never happened and instead they began a sexual relationship which Williams subsequently recognised as sexual abuse. Kelly failed to defend himself against that lawsuit, meaning Williams won by default the following year and was awarded $4 million in damages.

This all happened as new criminal investigations were launched into the many allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against Kelly over the years. Those resulted in two trials at which the musician was convicted and jailed.

With the incarcerated Kelly’s music career over, Williams’ legal team have struggled to get the $4 million in damages paid. Last year they accused the star of fraudulently selling his music rights to a friend in an effort to stop those rights being seized in order to settle his debts.

Another option was to go after revenues still being generated by Kelly’s catalogue via Sony Music. However, Midwest Commercial Funding had already made a claim against those royalties in order to access the $3.5 million it is owed.

The bank’s claim was received by Sony first, however it emailed its paperwork whereas Williams’ team sent a claim through the mail via the US Postal Service. And last week the Illinois Supreme Court confirmed a lower court ruling in the state which said that the relevant rules do not allow for such claims to be made by email. Therefore Williams’ claim should take precedence.