At a court hearing Thursday, prosecutors and Judge Lawrence Flood insisted that the Cook County criminal cases against R. Kelly would proceed normally, despite federal charges filed last month against the Chicago-based singer.
Kelly’s attorney said he doesn’t “know how” that schedule could work.
In total, Kelly is facing 38 criminal charges against him in four separate jurisdictions, mostly revolving around his alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.
The Cook County charges against Kelly were filed months before the other cases, and Thursday’s status update was the first hearing in Cook County court since Kelly was taken into federal custody.
During the hearing, Flood asked a question that has perplexed legal experts and Kelly’s own defense team since the federal charges were filed: How is this all going to work?
“Is there any discussion as far as which case is going to go first, or what that whole situation is?”
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez told Flood that prosecutors had not worked out any sort of agreement on the order of the cases.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, told Flood that “everyone wants to go first” in regards to the separate prosecution teams, and it was burdening Kelly’s defense. He said the separate cases all moving forward means his defense team is responsible for going through a “voluminous” amount of records from multiple cases at once.
“I don’t know how, with Mr. Kelly being under indictment federally and having certain rights that he has in respect to those trials, we can advance these cases and proceed in an expeditious fashion. I mean, I’m sorry they’re not all talking to each other — that frankly is shocking to me,” Greenberg said. “These [state] cases shouldn’t proceed until those [federal] cases are resolved.”
Gonzalez said prosecutors have been in communication.
“We have had numerous conversations with the federal prosecutors about their case,” Gonzalez said. “The fact is that Mr. Kelly has committed crimes that violate state law, federal law in multiple jurisdictions, and we are proceeding.”
Ultimately, Flood said that until he heard otherwise, he would be proceeding without consideration of Kelly’s other pending cases.
“Just so everybody’s clear on this, I’m not going to drag these cases out, OK?” Flood said. “I understand there’s two other matters pending, but as far as I’m concerned, these matters are in front of me, the state is proceeding, we’re gonna proceed as we would with any other case.”
Kelly is being held in a federal jail in downtown Chicago while he awaits trial on federal charges in New York and Chicago. He did not appear at Thursday’s hearing.
Gonzalez complained that Kelly was supposed to be taken to the criminal courthouse by the Cook County sheriff but “refused transport.”
Greenberg said they decided to waive Kelly’s appearance because moving Kelly from the federal jail is “a large undertaking” for the U.S. Marshals who are in charge of federal prisoners.
Flood told Greenberg that Kelly’s appearance is required at court hearings.
“He has to be here,” Flood said. “If there’s any issue, you know, regarding some inability to bring him here, they better come in and tell me what it is.”
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him@pksmid.