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Feds from New York sought records about R. Kelly’s Near West Side studio from City Hall

The singer’s defense attorney says, “they’re not going to find out anything from a subpoena that is earth-shattering.”

R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center in March 2019.
R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center in March 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors in New York sought records earlier this year about the Near West Side building where R. Kelly once ran a recording studio, which came under intense scrutiny following last year’s airing of the documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly.”

The subpoena surfaced this week amid other signs that the feds are building on their case against the R&B singer. But Kelly defense attorney Steve Greenberg said Thursday he suspected prosecutors were only seeking evidence that would corroborate witness testimony.

“They’re not going to find out anything from a subpoena that is earth-shattering,” Greenberg said.

The office of Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia received the feds’ grand jury subpoena Jan. 21, records show. It was directed to the building department and sought by Jan. 29, “any and all documents and photographs associated with building inspections conducted by the Chicago Department of Buildings” at 219 N. Justine.

City Hall disclosed the subpoena to the Chicago Sun-Times this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York declined to comment.

Since January, federal prosecutors in Chicago and New York have filed revised indictments against Kelly, who has been held behind bars in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center since last summer. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krull said this month that another indictment could be on the way here.

Krull also disclosed that the feds had seized more than 100 electronic devices, like cell phones and hard drives, when they recently executed a search warrant. Greenberg has said the warrant was executed at a suburban storage facility near O’Hare Airport that holds Kelly’s equipment, tour bus and electronics.

Prosecutors in New York confirmed in a filing Thursday that a search warrant had been executed Jan. 9 at a storage facility in Elk Grove.

“We expect that they’re not going to find anything incriminating,” Greenberg told reporters after a recent court appearance by Kelly.

Kelly is set to go to trial July 7 in New York, but a revised indictment filed there last week could prompt a delay. So could the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has prompted the delay of civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before April 27 in that district. Federal court in Chicago has also been brought to a near standstill.

For years, Kelly was the sole tenant of the warehouse at 219 N. Justine. In 2018, the company that owns the building sued Kelly, claiming he owed more than $170,000 in back rent.

The city’s Department of Buildings later asked a Cook County judge for access to the building to perform an inspection, alleging Kelly had made illegal alterations and was using the building as a residence in violation of its zoning.

In January 2019, city inspectors conducted a highly publicized search of the premises and found several code violations. A county judge later restricted the building’s hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In February 2019, Greenberg said Kelly had moved out.