R. Kelly a no-show for hearing on Cook County sex abuse charges

R&B singer “refused transport” from federal lockup to Leighton Criminal Court building for the first hearing since he was indicted in federal courts in Chicago and New York.

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R. Kelly talks to a supporter as he walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse June 6, 2019.

R. Kelly did not attend the first Cook County hearing since he was indicted by federal prosecutors in Chicago and New York.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

R. Kelly was a no-show for a court date at the Cook County criminal court house Thursday, the first hearing on his pending sex crimes cases since he was taken into federal custody last month on conspiracy and racketeering charges filed by prosecutors in Chicago and New York.

On a nearly monthly basis since he posted bond in February on charges related to alleged sexual abuse of four victims in Cook County, Kelly has walked in and out of the Leighton Criminal Court Building for hearings in his case — usually wearing a suit, sunglasses and trailed by a small entourage. Kelly, who was arrested July 11 on federal charges and has been held without bond since, “refused transport” from the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center to the Southwest Side courthouse, Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez said in court Thursday.

Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, said Kelly has waived his appearance, and that the U.S. Marshal Service had expressed concern about the difficulty of transporting Kelly to and from the federal lockup.

“I don’t want to discuss matters that I have discussed with the U.S. Marshal Service in open court,” Greenberg said. “Suffice it to say that the marshal service said that moving Mr. Kelly is a large undertaking.”

In February, Cook County prosecutors were the first jurisdiction to bring charges against the Chicago native, charging him with sexual abuse of four women, including three minors. In July, federal prosecutors in Chicago and Brooklyn filed charges, and, last week, prosecutors in Hennepin County, Minnesota, announced prostitution charges against the singer.

Gonzalez filed a motion Thursday to increase Kelly’s $1 million bail — $250,000 for each of the four Cook County cases — in light of the charges Kelly is now facing in the three other jurisdictions. Greenberg argued that cases in state court typically are put on hold if the defendant is charged in federal court, and that Kelly’s federal cases are “intertwined” with the Cook County cases.

Kelly, who was free on bond on the Cook County charges after spending three nights in jail in February, already had been ordered held without bail in both federal cases, Greenberg noted. The New York federal indictment — which charges Kelly under a racketeering law typically used to prosecute organized crime figures in sprawling criminal enterprises — likely will include crimes related to the ones for which he’s already been charged in Cook County.

“I’m sorry (prosecutors) are not all talking to each other. That is shocking to me, but I don t know how anyone can say these cases can proceed,” Greenberg said. “The cases are terribly intertwined, and these (Cook County) cases shouldn’t proceed until (the federal) cases are resolved.”

Gonzalez said that prosecutors in the different jurisdictions had not yet determined which case would move forward to trial first, but that the state’s attorney’s office was moving forward with the Cook County charges.

“We have victims charged under our indictments that are not related to the federal indictments, so we are proceeding as normal right now,” Gonzalez said.

Kelly will have to appear in court for the hearing on increasing his bond, Judge Lawrence Flood ordered, and proceedings in the state case will continue apace.

“I’m not going to drag these cases out,” Flood said. “I understand there’s two other matters pending, but as far as I’m concerned these matters are in front of me, the state is proceeding, we’re going to proceed as we would with any other case.”

After the hearing, Greenberg said Kelly was not being treated like any other defendant, citing an “unwritten rule” that defendants’ state-level cases are put on hold if they’re subsequently charged in federal court, and that federal inmates are usually not taken back and forth for routine hearings in state cases. Kelly already was shuttled from the MCC to Brooklyn earlier this month for a hearing on his New York federal case.

“R. Kelly did not refuse to come to court today,” Greenberg said. “There was discussion (with federal authorities) about not bringing him to court, and the desire was expressed by the Marshals to not have to go through the necessary steps to be transported to Cook County for a routine status date. We didn’t have a problem with that.

“They should start treating R. Kelly like they treat everyone else.”

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