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Prosecutors argue against R Kelly’s request for release from prison on COVID-19 grounds

By | Published on Wednesday 1 April 2020

R Kelly

Prosecutors in New York have responded to R Kelly’s request last week to be temporarily released from prison due to COVID-19 fears.

In a motion filed on Monday, prosecutors argued that there was no justified reason to release the musician, despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. They argued that, at 53, he is not old enough to be considered at a high risk of complications if he does contract the illness. He is also in good health, with no underlying medical conditions that might lead to concerns for his safety, they said.

As well as this, prosecutors argued that the nature of the crimes Kelly is accused of would make releasing him, albeit temporarily, problematic.

“While the government recognises the seriousness of COVID-19 and the increased risk to certain federal prisoners, a generalised risk alone does not justify releasing the entire Bureau Of Prisons population, much less a prisoner being held for racketeering charges involving crimes against specified victims with a history of obstructing justice”, says the filing, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Currently the US Bureau Of Prisons has reported nineteen confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its facilities nationwide – none of which are in Illinois where Kelly is being held. Still, in a filing last week, Kelly’s attorney Steven Greenberg claimed that a number of prisoners locked up with the star had been quarantined due to “flu-like” symptoms and that prison staff were not taking adequate safety measures. He argued that forcing Kelly to await his trials in the prison is “tantamount to making [him] drink poison”.

In this week’s filing, prosecutors refuted claims that the COVID-19 outbreak was not being taken seriously in US prisons, noting that inmates’ movements are being restricted and there is currently a ban on visitors. Inmates are also being allowed to self-isolate in their cells.

Kelly, of course, has not yet been convicted of any crime. He is being held in custody awaiting trial due to his perceived flight risk and – as noted above – accusations of witness tampering during his previous trial on sexual abuse charges.

The musician is facing numerous new charges relating to sexual abuse, with trials pending in New York, Illinois and Minnesota. The New York jury trial is currently scheduled to begin in July. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.