Feud erupts between lawyers for R. Kelly, former worker Derrel McDavid

It all began earlier this month when Kelly lawyer Jennifer Bonjean asked U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to delay the trial set for Aug. 1 of Kelly, McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, another former Kelly worker.

SHARE Feud erupts between lawyers for R. Kelly, former worker Derrel McDavid
R. Kelly walks with supporters out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in June 2019.

R. Kelly walks with supporters out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in June 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

A feud has erupted in R. Kelly’s federal criminal case in Chicago, where lawyers for one of the singer’s co-defendants accused his lawyer Wednesday of “making reckless accusations” in a bid to sever the co-defendant from Kelly’s trial — and perhaps delay it.

Along the way, lawyers for former Kelly employee Derrel McDavid called a 2019 Chicago Sun-Times interview of the late criminal defense attorney Ed Genson a “manipulative interview of a dying man.”

That interview of Genson, who represented Kelly during his 2008 state-court trial, is now at the center of a back-and-forth between Kelly lawyer Jennifer Bonjean and McDavid lawyers Beau Brindley, Vadim Glozman and Blair Westover.

It all began earlier this month when Bonjean asked U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to delay the trial set for Aug. 1 of Kelly, McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, another former Kelly worker. McDavid’s lawyers have long pushed for a speedy trial in the nearly three-year-old child-pornography case, and Leinenweber denied Bonjean’s request for a delay, or continuance.

Then, on Monday, Bonjean filed a new motion seeking to sever McDavid from Kelly’s trial. In the 12-page filing, Bonjean alleged that Glozman had a potential conflict of interest because he once worked for Genson.

She wrote that, “in the years following” Kelly’s acquittal in the 2008 state-court case, “Kelly and Genson maintained an attorney client relationship.” And she wrote that “an attorney client relationship between Kelly and Genson was imputed to Glozman who was Genson’s associate.”

Bonjean pointed to the 2019 Sun-Times interview of Genson, in which the lawyer said of Kelly, “I kept him out of trouble for 10 years.” She also called the interview “bizarre” and said Genson “engaged in egregious violations of the Rules of Professional Responsibility, announcing to the world privileged communications with Mr. Kelly and betraying his duty of loyalty.”

In a response filed Wednesday, McDavid’s lawyers said they did not object to a severance but one should not be granted “based on unsupported and unproven allegations.”

McDavid’s lawyers wrote that, “it is one thing to believe you deserve a continuance and disagree with the decision to deny it,” but another to “manufacture the need for severance” from “bare allegations” that “recklessly impugn the integrity of respected members of the bar” without “a shred of actual evidence.”

“Mr. Glozman took no part in Mr. Kelly’s [2008] trial,” they wrote, adding that “he has absolutely no information, confidential or otherwise, relating to that trial, other than what he has seen in the discovery in the instant case and what is publicly available to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to use Google.”

They also said Bonjean’s attempt to stretch the length of Genson’s attorney-client relationship with Kelly relies “exclusively” on the Sun-Times interview. And they wrote that Genson was “heavily medicated at the time,” “was rushed to the hospital shortly after the interview took place,” and that “the interviewer only entered Mr. Genson’s home through false pretenses.”

They called it a “manipulative interview of a dying man.”

Steve Warmbir, the Sun-Times’ interim editor-in-chief, said, “the Sun-Times completely stands by its 2019 interview of Ed Genson. The columnist did nothing remotely improper regarding the interview of Mr. Genson, who was quite lucid at the time.”

Brindley told the Sun-Times in a statement, “it is a disgraceful thing to falsely denigrate one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys in the history of Chicago for no legitimate reason. Edward Genson does not deserve that. And we drafted a response that says so.”

Bonjean said Wednesday the filing from McDavid’s lawyers “proves my point — they’re adversarial and they have no business being tried together.”

She said her move to sever McDavid is “not about the continuance” and that she would welcome “a severed, simultaneous trial.”

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