Feb 22, 2024 2 min read

R Kelly victim’s $4 million judgement overturned on procedural grounds

A court ruling ordering R Kelly to pay $4 million in damages to a woman who accused him of sexual abuse has been overturned in Illinois. Appeal court judges said that procedural rules had not been properly followed when Kelly’s legal team stood down from the case

R Kelly victim’s $4 million judgement overturned on procedural grounds

An appeals court in Illinois has dismissed a $4 million default judgement that was awarded to Heather Williams after she accused R Kelly of sexual abuse. Appeal judges concluded that the state's procedural rules had not been followed after the lawyers representing Kelly in the case stood down in 2020. 

Acccording to Law360, the judges said that Kelly should have been - but was not - served with papers confirming that his lawyers had stepped down in January 2020, and that a default judgement had subsequently been made against him the following month. 

"Kelly was not apprised of the trial court's deadline for filing [an alternative attorney]" as a result of this, they wrote. "The record does not reflect that the January withdrawal order or the February order of default were served on [a relevant attorney] or any other party on Kelly's behalf". 

Williams argued that Kelly did in fact have another attorney working for him by the day of a final court hearing in March 2020, but that he arrived late. As a result she said throwing out the default judgement in Kelly’s favour would be "manifestly unfair". 

However, the appeal judges disagreed. They stated, "although we express no opinion on the ultimate merits of Williams' cause of action, we do not find it manifestly unfair under the circumstances for those merits to be tested in court instead of Williams obtaining a multimillion-dollar judgement by default". 

Williams says that she 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. Instead, she says, they then began a sexual relationship that she now views as abusive. 

After going legal, Williams first won a default judgement in her favour in April 2019 after Kelly failed to respond to her complaint. However, his attorneys successfully argued that the litigation should be reopened, but then stood down from the case before it reached court again. 

By that time Kelly was in jail awaiting trial on multiple criminal charges in relation to his sexual abuse of women and teenagers. 

Kelly's failure to appoint new representation resulted in the second default judgement in 2020, with the musician ordered to pay $4 million in damages. His current legal team filed a new petition to vacate the judgement at the start of 2023. A Cook County judge then voided the judgement in April 2023, after which the case then headed to the Illinois appeal court. 

Alongside all that, lawyers working for Williams have also pursued other legal action in a bid to secure their client her damages from Kelly. 

That included a bid to claim the royalties that Kelly is due from Sony Music, although other creditors were going after that money too. And, in 2022, Williams' lawyers accused Kelly of fraudulently selling his music rights to a childhood friend in order to avoid that intellectual property from being claimed in lieu of the damages he owed.

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