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Judge orders Sony to give $1.5 million in royalties to R. Kelly’s former landlord

Earlier this year, Kelly’s former landlord — a Wisconsin-based property management company — secured a $3.5 million judgment against the singer to cover unpaid rent and repair costs at the studio space at 219 N. Justine St.

R. Kelly, joined by supporters, walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in June 2019.
R. Kelly, joined by supporters, walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in June 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A Cook County judge has ordered Sony to give all the money in R. Kelly’s royalties account — more than $1.5 million — to the singer’s former landlord to cover past-due rent.

Earlier this year, Kelly’s former landlord — Midwest Commercial Funding, a Wisconsin-based property management company — secured a $3.5 million judgment against the singer to cover unpaid rent and repair costs at the studio space at 219 N. Justine St.

In 2019, Kelly was sued by a woman who alleged she was sexually abused by the singer; she was awarded $4 million last March. The woman is one of Kelly’s four alleged victims in his pending criminal case in Cook County; the Chicago Sun-Times is not identifying her for that reason.

Both the former landlord and alleged victim made claims on the $1.5 million in Kelly’s royalties account with Sony. The attorney for Kelly’s alleged victim contacted the record label on Aug. 17 via the Postal Service with a “citation to discover assets,” and Sony acknowledged the citation on Aug. 25.

R. Kelly owes money for alleged repairs and back rent to a warehouse he used as a studio in the Near West Side at 219 N. Justine.
The warehouse previously rented by R. Kelly at 219 N. Justine St.
Sun-Times file

An attorney for Midwest Commercial Funding, meanwhile, opted to email Sony’s legal department on Aug. 19, and that citation was acknowledged on Aug. 24.

On Nov. 30, Cook County Judge Patrick Heneghan awarded the royalties to Midwest Commercial Funding.

In his written order, Heneghan said the Midwest Commercial Funding was entitled to the money because Sony acknowledged the company’s citation before acknowledging that of Kelly’s alleged victim.

“This matter comes down to the timing of the service,” Heneghan wrote.

The judge also ordered Midwest Commercial Funding to maintain a lien on Kelly’s royalties account, “and Sony is directed and ordered to turn over any sums accruing to Kelly’s royalty account in the future, up to the total sum of MCF’s judgment ($3.484 million).”

Once Kelly’s royalties account satisfies what he owes to Midwest Commercial Funding, any money in the account will then go to Kelly’s alleged victim until her $4 million award is paid, Heneghan ordered.

Two days after Heneghan handed down his order, an attorney for Kelly’s alleged victim filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that a citation to discover assets may not be sent or received via email.

“The Court’s analysis of MCF’s lien priority based on emailing it to Sony on August 19, 2020 is an error in this Court’s previous application of existing law which merits reconsideration,” Jeffrey Deutschman, the woman’s attorney, wrote in his motion.

Last month, Deutschman told the Sun-Times he tried to compromise with Midwest Commercial Funding’s attorney, Jamie Burns. Deutschman said he was rebuffed after he suggested Midwest Commercial Funding take $1 million and leave the rest for his client.

“They want all of it,” Deutschman previously said. “They have their building, but my client lost her childhood to a sexual predator.”

Kelly rented the warehouse at 219 N. Justine St. from Midwest Commercial Funding until he was evicted in January 2019 over his failure to pay rent. A highly publicized inspection by the city’s Department of Buildings revealed numerous code violations.

The building is for rent and is being renovated, according to a rental listing for the property.

Kelly faces criminal charges across multiple jurisdictions, including federal indictments in Illinois and New York alleging racketeering, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. He also faces charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Cook County and soliciting a minor and prostitution in Minnesota. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop.