As with almost any time a person speaks out after many years and accuses someone—particularly a prominent someone—of abuse (verbal, physical, sexual or otherwise), a question that seems to always creep up is: Why are they just now talking? Why didn’t they say something sooner? In essence, if that situation was as horrifying and traumatic as it’s now being made out to be—why didn’t they ring the alarm immediately after it happened?
Those questions have undoubtedly been brought back to the forefront amid the long-awaited (equally long overdue) federal trial against disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last month or have been intentionally disengaging—which, understandable, if so—Kelly is being charged with 22 federal counts across New York, Illinois and Minnesota including charges of sex crimes, human trafficking, child pornography, racketeering, obstruction of justice, kidnapping and forced labor. On Thursday, his trial entered its fifth week in Brooklyn federal court. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The successful conviction of Kelly depends heavily on the prosecutorial team’s prowess, including how they piece together damning, detailed and disturbing witness testimonies from over 20 Jane and John Does that speak to Kelly’s established pattern of abuse and the deliberate systems he employed to help keep his accusers submissive and silent. One part of those systems, according to the New Yorker, includes the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that, as veteran music critic Jim DeRogatis explains, aided in keeping several women silent for many years.
DeRogatis, who initially broke the story of Kelly’s alleged “sex cult” back in 2000 for the Chicago Sun-Times and penned a bombshell piece on the entertainer for Buzzfeed News in 2017, is quick to highlight attorney Susan E. Loggans, “who is cited as ‘Lawyer No. 1’ in a motion by the Eastern District of New York to admit additional evidence into the court record,” adding that “over the years, Loggans has become the go-to lawyer for complaints against Kelly” and that she has been the head of a “settlement factory” that has helped keep Kelly’s accusers from speaking out, sometimes for over a decade. While prosecutors have petitioned to get Loggans or her longtime assistant Kim Jones to testify in the New York trial, they say the two women have refused to do so, citing travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
More from the New Yorker on Loggans’ history with Kelly and the NDAs:
Loggans entered the R. Kelly business in 1996, when her firm filed a civil suit against the singer on behalf of a young woman named Tiffany Hawkins. In the lawsuit, Hawkins claimed to have met Kelly in 1991, when she was fifteen and he was twenty-four. When I spoke to Hawkins in 2019, she told me that she had been an aspiring singer; she had recorded backing vocals on Kelly’s debut album, “Born Into the 90’s,” and had been a backing singer for Aaliyah, Kelly’s protégé, who became one of her close friends. (Kelly illegally married Aaliyah in 1994, when she was fifteen.) Hawkins alleged that she and other minors participated in group sex with Kelly, and that she finally ended her relationship with him in 1994, four months before her eighteenth birthday. Two months later, she said, she attempted suicide.
Hawkins continued to hear stories about Kelly and underage women, and, in 1996, she decided that he needed to be stopped. She sought advice from Demetrius Smith, his longtime friend and former road manager, who had recently broken ties with the star. Smith told me that he brought Hawkins to Susan E. Loggans & Associates, because he had seen Loggans’s splashy ads. A young associate at the firm, Ian Alexander, conducted Hawkins’s intake interview. He was a big music fan, and he was shocked by what Hawkins told him about Kelly. Loggans had no idea who R. Kelly was, but she agreed to accept Hawkins as a client.
Hawkins wanted to press criminal charges, and Alexander said that he contacted the Illinois State’s Attorney Office on her behalf. But, according to Hawkins and Alexander, the office chose not to pursue the case. (“I was a young Black girl,” Hawkins told me. “Who cared?”) Alexander then helped Hawkins file a civil suit against Kelly, his label, and his management company claiming that the singer “had a propensity to have sexual contact with minors” and seeking damages of ten million dollars. Hawkins gave a seven-and-a-half-hour deposition, after which Kelly’s lawyers offered her two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to settle. It was only their first offer, but Alexander said that Loggans pressured him to get Hawkins to take the deal. (Loggans denied this.) Her firm then kept a third of the money, which is standard practice. Hawkins told me that she never even met Loggans.
That lawsuit set the template for much of what followed during the next two and a half decades. Two more suits followed, in 2001 and 2002, on behalf of two alleged victims in Chicago, both of whom claimed that Kelly had had sexual contact with them when they were minors. Those cases were also settled out of court. Subsequent cases were settled without a publicly filed lawsuit: Loggans would inform Kelly’s lawyers of her clients’ claims, and then negotiate a settlement between the two parties, keeping the charges out of civil court, and also out of the news.
Additionally, two accusers whom Loggans is said to have represented in the past have already testified in Brooklyn federal court, Jane Doe no. 4 and Jane Doe no. 11. At least two more of Loggans’s former clients are also cited anonymously in the prosecutors’ motion to admit additional evidence but it has not been determined whether or not they will take the stand.