CHICAGO — Lawyers for embattled singer R. Kelly said in a court filing Friday the federal racketeering charge brought against him in New York is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the statute of limitations on sexual misconduct and should be tossed out of court.
Kelly was charged in July in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn under the federal anti-racketeering statute, known as the RICO Act, which is typically used to bring cases against large drug rings, complex street gangs or organized crime figures.
The sweeping indictment alleges Kelly and his associates recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact with the singer, then isolated and threatened them to keep them under control and prevent them from going to authorities.
To prove racketeering, prosecutors have to show that Kelly was the leader of a criminal enterprise that included co-conspirators such as managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants and runners.
But according to the motion to dismiss filed Friday, the charges fail to specifically name any co-conspirators — not even by pseudonyms — and therefore fall short of the burden needed to bring a racketeering case to trial.
“Robert Kelly is not an enterprise,” Kelly’s lead attorney, Steven Greenberg, wrote in the motion. “RICO was not designed as a means to punish a single individual for his own wrongful actions. RICO is only being used in this case in an effort to subvert various statutes of limitations.”
The 11-page motion also said the common purpose of the enterprise as alleged in the indictment, to promote Kelly’s music and the R. Kelly brand, fails to pass muster. It’s not illegal to promote a brand and the charges are “silent on how any other individual benefited from Mr. Kelly allegedly engaging in sexual activity,” the motion states.
Kelly, 53, is in federal custody awaiting trial on the New York charges as well as a separate indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Chicago alleging the singer conspired with two former employees — Milton Brown and Derrel McDavid — to rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County by paying off witnesses and victims to change their stories.
In addition, Kelly was charged in Cook County criminal court in February 2019 with four separate indictments accusing him of sexual misconduct over more than a decade. Three of those alleged victims were underage at the time.
If convicted in all jurisdictions, the embattled singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, could potentially face the rest of his life in prison.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in Chicago has set a tentative trial date in April. The New York case had been set to go to trial May 18, but the judge there moved it to July 7 to avoid conflicts.
A trial in Cook County is currently set for September.
Meanwhile, records obtained by the Chicago Tribune indicate prosecutors in New York have been collecting a wide range of evidence regarding Kelly’s associates and business interests as part of their case.
A subpoena sent last year to the Illinois secretary of state asked for driver’s license photos and vehicle registration history for 13 individuals, including Kelly.
Among the associates named in the subpoena was Jermaine “Bubba” Maxey, a Chicago music producer who was publicly accused by Jerhonda Pace of recruiting her after she’d attended Kelly’s child pornography trial in 2008 when she was 14, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by the Tribune.
Maxey has not been charged with wrongdoing. Pace is one of the alleged victims in the Cook County case.
The subpoena also sought records on Brown and McDavid as well as several producers and sound engineers who worked with Kelly on some of his biggest hits.
In January, prosecutors in New York sent a separate subpoena to the Chicago Department of Buildings requested documentation of inspections and code violations related to Kelly’s former recording studio on North Justine Street, according to a copy supplied to the Tribune through an open records request.
Prosecutors have said that some of the alleged sexual abuse took place at the studio, which Kelly vacated after he was criminally charged in Cook County last year.
(Chicago Tribune’s Gregory Pratt contributed to this story.)
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