Judge in NY says R. Kelly must stay behind bars despite coronavirus threat

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CHICAGO — The threat of COVID-19 behind bars is not enough to release R. Kelly from federal custody to await trial, a New York federal judge ruled Tuesday.

“While I am sympathetic to the defendant’s understandable anxiety about COVID-19, he has not established compelling reasons warranting his release,” District Judge Ann M. Donnelly wrote.

Donnelly noted that there are no confirmed infections at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where Kelly has been held since July.

And there is a real danger that he will try to tamper with witnesses, Donnelly wrote.

“The defendant is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses. The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed,” her ruling states.

Kelly faces wide-ranging federal charges in Chicago and New York. His attorneys have also filed petitions for his release in front of Judge Harry Leinenweber in Chicago’s federal courthouse.

Leinenweber ordered prosecutors to respond by April 14 to explain what measures are being taken at the MCC to protect detainees from the virus. It is unclear whether that will go forward now that the judge in his New York case has denied bond.

If released, Kelly would have lived 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, his attorney said.

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 Derrell McDavid and 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, though Donnelly said in her ruling Tuesday that it is unlikely to go forward as scheduled.

The singer is also 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 staunchly maintained his innocence throughout his mounting legal woes.


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