Artist News Legal

US prosectors go after R Kelly’s label and publishing royalties to pay off fines and restitution

By | Published on Friday 2 June 2023

R Kelly

Federal prosecutors in New York yesterday asked a judge to issue an order allowing them to claim royalties due to R Kelly from Sony Music and Universal Music Publishing to pay off fines and restitution linked to his conviction in the US state.

Kelly, of course, was found guilty in a New York court of establishing and running a criminal enterprise in order to sexually and physically abuse women and teenagers.

It was the first of two convictions that stemmed from the criminal investigations launched after the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary aired, it putting the abuse allegations that had surrounded the music star for decades back into the spotlight. The second conviction was in his home town of Chicago.

In the New York case, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in jail and ordered to pay $480,000 in fines and restitution. An additional $42,000 was added to that obligation as a result of the Chicago case. But prosecutors are still seeking to secure those payments.

To that end, according to Billboard, they have requested that the court issue so called writs of garnishment which would allow prosecutors to take any royalties that are due to the musician from his former label Sony Music and publisher Universal Music Publishing.

That said, prosecutors aren’t the only ones trying to access Kelly’s royalties to pay off debts. One of the musician’s victims – Heather Williams – is seeking to claim the $4 million in damages she was awarded in a civil lawsuit. And an entity called Midwest Commercial Funding is seeking to recover another $3.5 million debt.

Everyone see’s Kelly’s Sony royalties as a route to getting at least some of the money they are owed. In March the Illinois Supreme Court confirmed a lower court ruling that said Williams’ claim should take priority over that of Midwest Commercial Funding.

That was based on a technicality. Midwest actually got its claim for Kelly’s Sony royalties in first, but made that claim by email, which the relevant rules do not allow.

However, it is not clear whether the new claim for that cash by prosecutors in the criminal case against Kelly will now impact on William’s claim.

In a statement to Billboard, Kelly’s legal rep Jennifer Bonjean said that she and her client believe that the restitution order against him is incorrect and will be overturned on appeal. However, they have “no opinion” on prosecutors seeking to garnish funds held by Sony Music and Universal Music Publishing.