A Cook County judge on Friday granted the city’s request to let inspectors inside a Near West Side warehouse rented by R&B superstar R. Kelly.
The inspection, however, will not take place until noon on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
Melvin Sims, representing Kelly, had initially asked Judge Patrice Ball-Reed for 30 days to comply with any order she issued.
“It’s our belief that this is not an emergency,” Sims said during the brief hearing at the Daley Center.
Jamie Burns, an attorney for the company that owns the property at 219 N. Justine St., disclosed that the owners currently do not have access to the building.
“We don’t have a key,” Burns said.
The decision from Ball-Reed came a day after the city filed an emergency motion asking the judge for access to the two-story warehouse.
Attorneys for the city contended that the building was being illegally used as a recording studio and a residence, despite the property only being zoned for industrial uses.
“Upon information and belief it is being used as a residence and artist workspace — specifically as a recording studio in violation of the zoning law,” city attorneys said.
A call to the city’s 311 center, where someone reported that people were living in the building, prompted a Wednesday evening visit from inspectors with the city’s Department of Buildings. They could be seen knocking on the building’s windows and doors in an effort to get inside, but no one answered. They also shined a flashlight inside. They declined to comment to reporters.
A buildings department inspector testified that he and his colleagues could see sealed windows and replaced doorways and that the building “does not seem to be a warehouse.”
Police sent to Kelly’s Trump Tower condo
Kelly was not at the hearing. But before it even got underway, Chicago Police officers went to his condo in Trump Tower about 10 a.m. Friday, said CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The visit came in response to an out-of-state caller who told the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office that the singer was holding women there against their will, Guglielmi said.
Upon arrival, officers found Kelly there with two women, neither of whom were there involuntarily, police said.
Officers took no action and left.
Contentious press conference
After representing Kelly in housing court Friday, Sims called a press conference at his office at The Tenant Rights Group LLC. The meeting quickly turned contentious as Sims declined to answer most questions.
“The parties to this litigation — including the property owner and the tenant — are cooperating fully with the city of Chicago in ensuring that all building code and zoning measures at the subject premises do remain compliant,” he said.
Midwest Commercial Funding LLC, which owns the building, and the bank that issued the mortgage were named as defendants in the city’s emergency motion. Kelly was not named in the filing, though other defendants were listed as “tenants & occupants.” Kelly is the only tenant of the 8,000-square-foot building.
The city’s request to inspect the building came just days after another county judge ordered Kelly be evicted from the building. Midwest Commercial Funding sued Kelly last summer, alleging he owed the company nearly $80,000 in back rent.
Monday, the judge ruled in Midwest Commercial Funding’s favor, court records show, issuing an “order of possession” for Midwest Commercial Funding.
A spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office — the agency that handles evictions in the county — said the office had not yet received the judge’s eviction order as of Friday afternoon and it was unclear when it would be executed.
Sims said Friday that the eviction was part of an “agreed order” and that “there was no award of any kind.”
Cook County court records show that on Jan. 7, a judge entered an award for Midwest Commercial Funding for $166,981. Digital copies of entries made in the case on Monday were not yet publicly available as of Friday afternoon.
Asked if he could provide reporters with copies of the order, Sims declined, saying: “I’m gonna leave that to you guys and to your resources, but I will say that I’m the attorney of record on the case. I was involved in the negotiations of the settlement, and that eviction matter was settled by an agreed order.”
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s office did not respond to a request for those filings and Burns, the attorney for Midwest Commercial Funding, did not respond to questions about the eviction on Thursday.
Sims also declined to identify Kelly as his client, despite the R&B star being the only tenant of the building on Justine. He concluded his four-minute press availability by walking out of the room as reporters yelled questions at him.