The Illinois Supreme Court has opened a door for an R. Kelly victim to receive money from his royalty account with Sony Music to satisfy the $4 million judgment won in 2020.
The debt owed to the woman will trump the money owed in unpaid rent to a Chicago recording studio.
After three years Heather Williams, who won a civil lawsuit against the “Step in The Name of Love” chart-topper, will finally receive payment toward the multi-million judgment awarded by a high court.
Even after winning her case, she ran into trouble with others Kelly owed massive amounts of money to and fought in court to gain access to the artist’s mounting royalties with his record label, according to Billboard.
On Thursday, March 23, the state supreme court upheld a lower court’s decision to allow her first rights on Kelly’s royalty dollars before Midwest Commercial Funding, the company that managed the recording studio Kelly worked out of. The artist owes Midwest Commercial $3.5 million.
Key to the decision is the chronology: Williams was the first to assert that Sony should pay her from the pot of money earned by the multi-platinum-selling musicians.
Bloomberg Law reports Williams submitted her claim to Sony Music Holdings Inc. via the US Postal Service and it showed by date stamp, her petition was made first.
Midwest Commercial, on the other hand, sent the music publisher its query by email, which made a difference in the court.
With the high court’s affirmation of the ruling, the woman will receive “any funds currently in Kelly’s royalty account,” and will continue to be the sole beneficiary of the account until the judgment is paid in full.
There are other penalties that a court might hold off on Williams’ payout for. After being convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering in a federal court in New York in 2021, a court ordered Kelly to pay victims in that case upward of $480,000.
His February 2023 conviction in Illinois on child pornography charges put on an additional $42,000 to the debt he owes to victims.
Up until the ruling, no one has received money from this account. Sony blocked any payouts until at least this case was resolved.
Williams’ legal team successfully proved the artist lured her into his life at the age of 16 with promises of making her a star.
In 1998, the teen came to his recording studio under the pretense of being placed in a music video by the powerful entertainer. Kelly, once known as R&B’s pied piper, began a sexual relationship with the minor, which now she sees as abusive.
She became the first of several women to come forward with statutory rape allegations and win in civil court.
After the judgment was upheld, Kelly’s lawyer raised issues with the court’s decision.
Celebrity defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean says her team is seeking to have the lucrative judgment overturned.
She argues because her client had not responded to the civil lawsuit, Williams received a default judgment, which “never should have been entered.”
“I’ve never in my career seen such a flouting of the rules to deny him even the opportunity to defend these civil cases, even when the courts were fully aware that Kelly was incarcerated, unrepresented at points, and facing multiple criminal indictments,” the lawyer told Billboard in a statement.
“Indeed, much of these civil proceedings occurred without Kelly’s knowledge,” she continured.
Bonjean still concedes this will be an “uphill battle,” that would require her to undo the damage done by her client’s previous representation.
In February, Kelly was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child sex crimes. A jury found him guilty of producing multiple videos of him and his 14-year-old goddaughter engaged in sexual acts.
This sentence would run concurrently with the 30-year sentence he received with his New York conviction.