Artist News Legal

R Kelly again requests release from prison, as New York trial delayed due to COVID-19

By | Published on Friday 17 April 2020

R Kelly

R Kelly has again requested to be released from prison over COVID-19 concerns, as the date of his New York trial is postponed by two months as a result of the disease.

The musician’s attorneys made the new request for his release just ten days after a previous motion was rejected. The lawyers argue that the medical situation in the US prison system is growing worse, putting Kelly under “tremendous stress and anxiety” that he will become unwell. They also again argued that with the Chicago prison where Kelly is being held on lockdown, it is impossible to effectively prepare for his upcoming trials.

“Inmates are reportedly banging on doors, walls, and windows begging for help”, says Kelly’s attorney Michael Leonard in the new motion, filed in New York, according to Billboard. “The only thing the [Chicago prison] has done is lock things down, making conditions feel more like solitary confinement: and possibly, because of the nature of this virus, locking in healthy inmates with those who already have the virus but who may not yet be symptomatic”.

“Additionally, and possibly more importantly”, he adds, “Mr Kelly’s entire professional life depends on his exoneration from the current charges pending against him. Mr Kelly’s present confinement, when coupled with the dramatically changed circumstance at the [prison], make it virtually impossible for he and his counsel to prepare for trial in any meaningful way. Not only is he on virtual lockdown, Mr Kelly now gets one phone call per week. His attorneys cannot visit him”.

The request also argues that Kelly is not a flight risk or a danger to the public, and stresses that he is willing to wear an electronic tag and live “virtually within the sight line of the federal courthouse in Chicago”.

Earlier this month another request for Kelly to be released on COVID-19 grounds was knocked back, with the judge noting that he was being held in custody pending trial precisely because he was considered a flight risk and a danger to the public. US District Judge Ann Donnelly noted evidence of witness tampering in Kelly’s previous child abuse trial in 2008.

Donnelly also pointed out that, aged 53 and in good health, Kelly is not considered at high risk of experiencing severe symptoms if he does contract COVID-19. She conceded that Kelly has had surgery since being incarcerated last year, but said his attorneys had failed to show that this increased his risk of severe illness.

At a hearing yesterday, Donnelly declined to consider the new motion, mainly because Kelly is facing criminal charges in multiple states. She is overseeing the New York case, but his motion for prison release would also require input from the judge overseeing the separate charges back in Chicago itself.

However, Donnelly did postpone the date of the musician’s New York trial from 7 Jul to 27 Sep. She had previously said that such a delay was likely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reckoning that this weakened Kelly’s argument that not being able to see his lawyers face to face during lockdown was making it difficult to prepare for court. There’d be plenty of time for further meetings once lockdown was over, she said.

That postponement brings the date of the New York trial closer to that in Chicago, which is set for October. A third trial in Minnesota is also pending.

Kelly is accused of various sexual abuse charges, with many of his accusers being underage at the time of the alleged crimes. He denies all charges against him.