Artist News Legal

R Kelly again denied prison release over COVID-19 concerns

By | Published on Wednesday 22 April 2020

R Kelly

A federal judge has again knocked back R Kelly’s request to be released from prison over COVID-19 concerns. The judge said the reduced capacity of law enforcement services in the current situation would increase the risk of him attempting to flee the country or interfere with witnesses involved in his upcoming trials.

Not yet convicted of any crime, Kelly is being held in prison in Chicago awaiting trials in Illinois, New York and Minnesota on sexual abuse charges. He was taken into custody partly because he is considered a flight risk and partly due to evidence of witness tampering in his previous trial on similar charges back in 2008.

Kelly’s legal team have argued that he should be released and held on house arrest because of fears that he will contract COVID-19 while in prison. They said that this fear is causing the musician considerable stress, and with the prison he is currently incarcerated in lockdown and allowing no outside visitors, it is not possible for his attorneys to meet with him in order to prepare for the upcoming court hearings.

An initial request was dismissed last month. A second was then filed last week. That filing was made with the New York courts, but the judge there refused to rule on it straight away, saying that it also required the input of the judge overseeing the separate trial in Chicago.

With that input now given, New York federal judge Ann Donnelly has also denied the second request, again citing the reasons he is being held in the first place. According to the Chicago Tribune, the judge said, “given the ongoing pandemic, where the judicial system’s oversight capabilities are curtailed” there is no way to “ensure that a defendant with a history, incentive and opportunity to interfere with potential witnesses will not do so”.

According to reporter Jason Meisner, Donnelly also noted that, although the charges he faces now are similar to those he fought off more than a decade ago, Kelly’s “circumstances and incentives are vastly different”. This, she says, is because the severity and number of charges now mean he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted. Therefore, he is much more of a flight risk than in that previous trial.

Earlier this month, Kelly’s New York trial was postponed from July to September, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. His Chicago trial is set to take place in October. He denies all charges against him.