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After two years in Chicago’s MCC, R. Kelly moved to Brooklyn detention center ahead of trial

The judge presiding over his case in New York said last week she wanted to question Kelly in person about a potential conflict of interest involving one of his lawyers. 

R. Kelly walks with supporters out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
R. Kelly has been moved to Brooklyn’s metropolitan correctional center.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

For nearly two years, R&B star R. Kelly has been awaiting trial in Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was attacked by a fellow inmate and endured the coronavirus pandemic along with hundreds of other detainees.

Now, with less than two months until he is set to face trial on racketeering charges in New York, federal prison records show Kelly has been moved to a metropolitan detention center in Brooklyn, ending his long stay at Chicago’s MCC.

Kelly’s lawyers and BOP officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The move is not a surprise. Federal prosecutors said in April they would be “starting that process” of moving Kelly, 54, to Brooklyn to prepare for trial. And last week, the judge presiding over his case there said she wants to question Kelly in-person about a potential conflict of interest involving one of his lawyers.

The singer recently told the judge he no longer wanted to move forward with his Chicago-based lawyers, Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard. Rather, he preferred Thomas Farinella of New York and Nicole Blank Becker of Michigan. Another lawyer, Devereaux Cannick of New York, filed an appearance on Kelly’s behalf Tuesday.

The judge in Brooklyn wants to question Kelly about a potential conflict involving Becker.

Kelly has been incarcerated since authorities arrested him in July 2019 while he walked his dog outside Trump Tower in Chicago. Though he faces federal indictments in Brooklyn and Chicago, attempts to put him on trial were repeatedly derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawyers for detainees at the Chicago MCC have detailed two outbreaks of the virus while Kelly was held there, in the spring and fall of 2020. Kelly’s multiple requests to be let out of the jail while awaiting trial were rejected.

Meanwhile, a Latin King street gang member said he attacked Kelly inside the jail last August, claiming he did it “in hopes of getting spotlight attention and world news notice to shed light on” alleged government corruption.

That man was later sentenced to life in prison for a racketeering conviction that involved two 1999 murders in Northwest Indiana.

Kelly’s indictment in Brooklyn alleges he led an “enterprise” made up of his managers, bodyguards, drivers and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex. He is set to go to trial in that case Aug. 9.

A separate indictment in Chicago charges Kelly with child pornography and obstruction of justice. It alleges he thwarted his 2008 prosecution in Cook County with threats, gifts and six-figure payoffs.