R. Kelly’s Chicago trial de­layed

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JON SEIDEL, FED­ERAL COURTS RE­PORTER jsei­del@sun­times.com | @Sei­delCon­tent

A fed­eral judge in Chicago agreed Tues­day to de­lay the fall trial of R&B singer R. Kelly, find­ing that pros­e­cu­tors had raised le­git­i­mate con­cerns about whether the trial could pro­ceed amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Harry Leinen­we­ber said he would re­visit the set­ting of a trial date in Oc­to­ber.

Pros­e­cu­tors last week said they wanted to de­lay Kelly’s Oc­to­ber trial, ar­gu­ing the pan­demic raised sev­eral lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues that could cause a mis­trial.

Their bid fol­lowed months of un­suc­cess­ful ef­forts by Kelly’s lawyers to try to free him from the Metropoli­tan Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Chicago. The singer faces a fed­eral in­dict­ment here al­leg­ing child pornog­ra­phy and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

He also faces a sep­a­rate in­dict­ment in Brook­lyn al­leg­ing rack­e­teer­ing.

His lawyers are due to speak to the judge in Brook­lyn on Wed­nes­day. For now, Kelly is set to go on trial there Sept. 29.

Mean­while, the feds in New York brought charges last week against as­so­ciates of Kelly, point­ing to sep­a­rate al­leged schemes to threaten, in­tim­i­date and bribe al­leged Kelly vic­tims. They also charged a Kelly man­ager with threat­en­ing a Man­hat­tan the­ater ahead of a screen­ing of the Life­time doc­u­men­tary se­ries “Sur­viv­ing R. Kelly.”

Pros­e­cu­tors in Chicago said they plan to call about 50 wit­nesses when Kelly goes to trial here. Of those, 12 or 13 live out of state. Eight or nine of those out-of-state wit­nesses would be trav­el­ing from states on Chicago’s coro­n­avirus quar­an­tine list. Some are also ei­ther in high-risk cat­e­gories for COVID-19 or live with peo­ple who are high-risk.

Jury se­lec­tion will likely be dif­fi­cult in Kelly’s home­town of Chicago, pros­e­cu­tors said. They also pre­dicted the trial would draw 34 or 36 peo­ple to a court­room, not count­ing spec­ta­tors. That in­cludes ju­rors, pros­e­cu­tors, de­fense at­tor­neys, the de­fen­dants, the judge and other court­room per­son­nel who would all have to main­tain proper so­cial dis­tance.

One of Kelly’s co-de­fen­dants, long­time man­ager Der­rel McDavid, has filed a speedy trial demand and sug­gested he could go to trial sep­a­rately from Kelly if nec­es­sary. His lawyers pointed to a jury trial held at Chicago’s fed­eral court­house this month — the first since the pan­demic took hold — and said pro­to­cols used then could be used for McDavid.

Dur­ing that trial, ju­rors were spaced across half of a court­room, spec­ta­tors in the court­room were ex­tremely lim­ited — though pro­ceed­ings were shown in an over­flow court­room — and sev­eral ad­di­tional safety pro­ce­dures were fol­lowed. Pros­e­cu­tors coun­tered that the ear­lier trial in­volved only six wit­nesses, all of whom were mem­bers of law en­force­ment. They said that, even if McDavid was to go to trial alone, his trial would in­volve at least four times as many wit­nesses.

Mean­while, Kelly’s lawyers said the singer has been “in vir­tual soli­tary con­fine­ment for over a year,” and they said mem­bers of his le­gal team have not been able to visit with him in per­son for months.

“The only so­lu­tion is to per­mit his tem­po­rary re­lease,” they wrote in a court fil­ing Mon­day.

Leinen­we­ber told Kelly at­tor­ney Steve Green­berg on Tues­day that he was wel­come to file a mo­tion seek­ing Kelly’s re­lease, and Green­berg said he would do so.


R. Kelly

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