“As an artist, one who’s gifted … I think he’ll be welcomed back into Chicago as a person who can be redeemed,” Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) told TMZ on Tuesday, the day after Kelly was found guilty on one federal racketeering charge and eight charges related to sex trafficking of minors and women.
Davis serves Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Chicago. Kelly, who is originally from the city, still has a large base of supporters there despite decades of allegations of sexual abuse against minors.
“I’m a big believer in what is called second chances,” Davis said. When asked if he had anything to say to Kelly, Davis responded that he hopes the singer can “find peace with the maker and peace with himself and reconcile with the universe for the acts that he may have committed.”
Davis clarified his comments in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday afternoon.
“Kelly has been accused of criminal acts, gone through a court of law, been convicted and must serve whatever time the court decides,” he said, adding that he is “a law and order policy maker” and that “women and children must be respected and protected at all times and at all costs.”
Davis’ primary challenger, Kina Collins, ripped into the congressman for supporting Kelly.
“This is beyond distasteful to the survivors whose voices were finally heard and have just started going through the healing process right now,” Collins tweeted.
“I’m still shocked that @RepDannyDavis would choose today of all days to focus on 2nd chances for a serial abuser rather than uplifting survivors,” she wrote in a separate tweet. “He’s silent about attacks on our reproductive rights ― attacks that disproportionately hurt Black women ― but he has time for R Kelly.”
The overwhelming majority of victims who testified at Kelly’s trial in New York were young Black women, some of whom were underage when Kelly first sexually abused them. They all described Kelly creating an environment of fear, as well as using his fame and power to groom and control them. Several testified that the singer implemented strict rules that included calling him “Daddy,” subjected them to physical beatings, and controlled what they wore, where they went and what they ate.
“He could put the fear of God in me very quickly,” one victim said of Kelly during her testimony.
Collins expanded on her tweets in a statement to HuffPost, criticizing Davis’ comments as “incredibly disappointing,” especially since he represents “thousands of Black women and girls” in his congressional district.
“It took years of activism ― led by Black women ― to hold R. Kelly accountable. He has caused immeasurable harm to so many women in our district and across Chicago,” Collins said. “He hasn’t even been sentenced, let alone begun to serve his time. When so many survivors are just now finally able to begin their healing process, Congressman Davis’ statement shows just how out of touch he is with the community he claims to represent.”
Kelly will head to Chicago next to face more federal charges relating to sexual abuse. His sentencing in the New York trial is set for May, and he could face life in prison.