R. Kelly asks judge for permission to leave U.S. for Dubai concert

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R. Kelly walks out of the Daley Center after a hearing in domestic relations court, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

R. Kelly wants permission to hop on a private jet to Dubai next month for a series of concerts that would mark his first performances since his arrest on sex abuse charges.

Kelly, who surrendered his passport last month and cannot leave the state without the court’s permission, filed a motion Wednesday requesting permission to fly to Dubai to perform three to five concerts in April. Kelly’s lawyer Steve Greenberg said he turned over a copy of the request, as well as details of the singer’s travel arrangements to Cook County prosecutors, and will ask Judge Lawrence Flood to rule on the matter at a previously scheduled status hearing on Friday.

“(Kelly) needs to be able to work like anyone else who is free on bond, and the law needs to be adaptable,” Greenberg said.

Kelly had signed a contract to perform the shows in Dubai, the largest city in the federation of Persian Gulf states known as the United Arab Emirates, and the singer is “supposed to meet with the Royal Family” during his visit.

Even before the R&B star was indicted in the cases involving four victims — three of them underage girls — he had suffered financially amid furor over longstanding allegations that he had sex with minors and the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series that aired on Lifetime in January.

A string of U.S. venues canceled his bookings and the #muteRKelly online campaign caused a decline in his music sales and downloads, Greenberg said, but Kelly still is able to find interested concert venues abroad.

Last spring, concert organizers at UIC Pavilion canceled his appearance at the “Pre-Mother’s Day Love Jam” amid outcry from student groups and staff.

In January, state officials denied a permit to use the State Fairgrounds in Springfield for a spring break concert headlined by Kelly, citing security concerns related to likely protests to Kelly’s appearance.

After his recent arrest on sex abuse charges, organizers of a concert in Germany canceled a contract to host an R. Kelly in April.

Greenberg acknowledged that Dubai does not have a formal extradition treaty with the United States but laws in U.A.E. require that the government must “aggressively seek out anyone wanted by a foreign government.”

“The United States and U.A.E. have great relations, and they are not going to jeopardize that relationship to harbor R. Kelly,” Greenberg wrote in the motion.

But while facing child pornography charges a decade ago, Kelly had been allowed to travel while he was awaiting trial and never missed a court date in Cook County. Greenberg said he would go to Dubai with the singer as a “chaperone,” if it would enable Kelly to make the trip.

Despite a string of hit albums over his decadeslong career, Greenberg has said Kelly’s finances are in disarray. The singer twice spent three-night stints in the Cook County Jail in recent weeks because he couldn’t come up with six-figure sums to either post bond or pay child support.

After he was arrested on the sex assault cases in February, Kelly remained in jail until a woman who said she was a friend posted the $100,000 he needed to go free on bond. He landed in jail again over $161,000 in back child support, and remained locked up until an anonymous friend put up the money to secure his release.

When Kelly turned over his passport in February, said Greenberg then the singer hadn’t used it since it was issued several years earlier.

“He does not like to fly,” Greenberg said Wednesday. “But he will do what he has to do. He has bills to pay.”

Greenberg’s motion also includes a series of digs about the the four cases filed against his client, and the motives of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Greenberg’s motion notes that all of the cases involve allegations that date back years. The motion also claims Foxx has ties to Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, the aunt of one of Kelly’s alleged victims and a star witness at Kelly’s 2008 child porn trial.

Foxx’s office said Wednesday that Edwards did perform at a get-out-the-vote event for Foxx and U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp in 2016. Foxx spokesman Robert Foley would not confirm whether Edwards was a potential witness in any of the cases now pending against Kelly, but did say that Foxx’s chief ethics officer determined that Edwards’ performance at the campaign event did not pose a conflict of interest for Foxx or the office.

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