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Lawyers in R Kelly sexual abuse lawsuit quit the case

By | Published on Wednesday 29 January 2020

R Kelly

R Kelly has been hit with another legal setback, this time in relation to a civil lawsuit he is fighting alongside his three pending criminal trials. All three of the attorneys who were representing him in that case have now withdrawn.

The judge overseeing the litigation has allowed said attorneys – Zaid Abdallah, Shady Yassin and Raed Shalabi – to cease representing Kelly, following a motion they filed last week.

The lawsuit they were working on was filed against Kelly by Heather Williams, who accuses the star of sexual abuse. She says that she met the singer in 1998 when she was sixteen and initially agreed to spend time with him at his studio because he promised to put her in a music video. Instead, she says, they then began a sexual relationship which she now views as abusive.

In April last year, the judge made a default judgement in Williams’ favour after Kelly failed to respond to her complaint. However, his attorneys then successfully argued that the case should be reopened. The reason Kelly had not responded, they said, was that his illiteracy meant that he could not read the summons he had been sent, so he did not there was a civil case against him.

The lawyers then attempted to get the case dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The judge denied this, saying that it was reasonable for Williams to argue that, as a minor at the time, she had not realised that the relationship was abusive until years later.

With the lawsuit now heading for court, in November his attorneys said that Kelly had decided to employ his fifth amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. He would therefore enter no testimony, fearful that doing so in the civil case might later influence the criminal proceedings.

Those attorneys have now joined him in not speaking, taking the decision to step down from the case entirely. In their motion to withdraw, they said that they felt “that circumstances have evolved that prevent the counsels from zealously advocating on behalf of the defendant”. Kelly now has 21 days to find new representation.

Meanwhile, the musician himself reportedly missed a court appearance last week after being taken to hospital for emergency hernia surgery. One of his now ex-attorneys, Shady Yassin, told the Chicago Sun-Times: “He was limping when I visited him at the MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Facility] and he showed me the result of his surgery – three major stomach incisions – and I don’t think he’d had much time to recover”.