R. Kelly seeking to exit federal custody in Chicago due to coronavirus fears

Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — Embattled singer R. Kelly is once again asking a federal judge to release him on bond pending trial on sexual abuse allegations, this time alleging unsanitary conditions at the federal jail in Chicago leave him at risk to contract COVID-19.

In a motion filed Thursday, Kelly, who has been held without bond since his arrest on federal charges in July, said “social distancing” practices recommended by U.S. health officials “are simply impossible” in the close quarters of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago’s high-rise federal jail in the Loop.

Although the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has not reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the MCC, Kelly’s attorneys said in the 18-page motion that inmates who have reported “flulike symptoms” are being quietly quarantined and that guards are not wearing protective gear to prevent possible infection.

“No matter what steps they take, the sanitation will be substandard, the risk of an internal pandemic at the MCC is great, and if one does get sick jail healthcare is notoriously substandard,” Kelly’s lawyer, Steven Greenberg, wrote. “Imagine how poor it will be given the overall lack of resources at even the best hospitals. … Requiring people to reside in a custodial jail setting is tantamount to making them drink poison.”

Greenberg said that if Kelly is allowed bond, he would live at the Roosevelt Collection Lofts, a large South Loop apartment complex, with girlfriend Joycelyn Savage, who until last year had lived with Kelly at the Trump Tower.

Even if U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber granted the request, however, Kelly would still need to persuade a federal judge in New York to release him from a no-bond order on charges brought there. Kelly’s attorneys filed a nearly identical motion in his New York case on Thursday.

As of Thursday, the Bureau of Prisons was reporting that 10 federal inmates and eight staff members have been infected with the coronavirus nationwide, but none of those cases was in Illinois.

Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was charged in U.S. District Court in Chicago with conspiring with two former employees — longtime manager Derrel McDavid and former employee Milton “June” Brown — to rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County by paying off witnesses and victims to change their stories.

The indictment also alleged Kelly and his co-defendants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover child sex tapes before they fell into the hands of prosecutors.

He also faces a separate racketeering conspiracy indictment in U.S. District Court in New York alleging he identified underage girls attending his concerts and groomed them for later sexual abuse. A jury trial in that case is currently set for mid-July.

The singer is charged in four separate indictments in Cook County alleging he sexually assaulted or abused four women, three of whom were underage at the time.

Additional charges are also pending in Minnesota, alleging Kelly solicited a teenager who asked for his autograph in 2001.

Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.


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