New York Daily News

R. Kelly’s legal team in disarray

- BY NOAH GOLDBERG

Just two months before his federal sex traffickin­g trial is to begin in Brooklyn, R. Kelly’s legal team is in disarray, with two of his lawyers trying to get out of the case.

The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer confirmed that he wanted to switch counsel from Steven Greenberg and Michael Leonard to Thomas Farinella and Nicole Becker during a Wednesday court appearance in Brooklyn — and tried to explain himself in a statement to the judge.

“I apologize for the confusion and I’m thankful you gave me a chance to say something about it,” Kelly said to the judge.

But that’s as far as he got. Brooklyn Federal Judge Ann Donnelly stopped the singer and informed him that he should not speak without first talking with his lawyers.

When Kelly informed her he had spoken with his lawyers about making a statement, Donnelly still did not give the disgraced R&B star a chance to talk.

Kelly (photo) faces trial at the downtown Brooklyn federal courthouse in August. Prosecutor­s will try to prove he ran a racketeeri­ng scheme that trafficked women and underage girls who came to his shows.

He also is charged with having sexual activity with three girls under the age of 18 and making child pornograph­y.

The hearing Wednesday came days after Greenberg and Leonard filed a motion Monday night asking to withdraw from the case.

Greenberg and Leonard say they no longer want to work on Kelly’s defense with Farinella and Becker. Greenberg and Leonard have cited Farinella’s past mental health issues and the lawyers’ lack of federal trial experience as reasons to withdraw.

“Certain members of the defense have publicly documented some mental health issues where they can’t deal with stress. We don’t want to give them the most important witnesses,” Greenberg said Wednesday.

Farinella was suspended from practicing in New York in 2011 after a panel of appellate judges found that he “was suffering from a mental infirmity which made it impossible for him to defend himself in disciplina­ry proceeding­s pending against him.”

“My mental health problems from over a decade ago and the resulting disciplina­ry matter have nothing to do with this case or my ability to effectivel­y and competentl­y represent Mr. Kelly,” Farinella said in a statement emailed to the Daily News.

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