For the second time this month, a judge has ordered that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, R. Kelly must remain in federal custody before he faces trial on obstruction of justice, racketeering and child pornography charges in New York.
U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly, of the Eastern District of New York, on Tuesday denied a motion from Kelly’s attorneys that sought a bail hearing and an order for his temporary release.
“The defendant maintains that any risk can be mitigated through a combination of measures imposed on his release, including restrictions on social media, internet and telephone use,” Donnelly wrote, highlighting that federal prosecutors in Illinois have accused Kelly of witness tampering during his prior child pornography case.
“Given the pandemic, where the judicial system’s oversight capabilities are curtailed, these measures simply are not viable — they cannot ensure that a defendant with a history, incentive and opportunity to interfere with potential witnesses will not do so.”
Kelly is the most high-profile inmate in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where coronavirus cases appear to be rising. He’s been held there since his arrest last summer, while facing indictments in Chicago and Brooklyn. Judges in both court districts have denied multiple requests for release from Kelly.
The singer made his second coronavirus-related request for release April 16. He did so a little more than a week after Donnelly wrote that Kelly is “in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses. The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.”
However, the coronavirus has since crept into the MCC, and authorities say an inmate on Kelly’s floor went to the hospital and tested positive for the virus.
The federal case in Chicago alleges child pornography and obstruction of justice, while the feds in Brooklyn have alleged racketeering. Kelly’s attorneys say they’d prefer to go to trial in Brooklyn first, where a trial has been set for Sept. 29. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago is set for Oct. 13.