A federal judge in Chicago set an April trial date for R. Kelly on Tuesday despite protestations from Kelly’s defense team that the “voluminous” evidence being turned over in multiple pending cases against the singer leave them shorthanded preparing for trial.
Kelly is facing charges that range from child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, sexual assault, obstruction of justice and racketeering in four jurisdictions, including separate federal cases in New York and Chicago.
Harry Leinenweber is the first judge to set a trial date: April 27, 2020. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
At Tuesday’s court hearing, Kelly attorney Steve Greenberg told the judge that Kelly’s “rather unprecedented” situation of being charged at the same time in multiple cities would make it difficult to prepare for trial by next spring. He said the defense team has “limited resources” and it is the “same attorneys” tasked with reviewing documents, videos and other records from four separate prosecution teams all at once.
However, prosecutors pushed the judge to set the date, as did the attorney for Kelly’s co-defendant, Derrel McDavid.
McDavid was Kelly’s manager. He is accused of obstructing justice by allegedly helping to find and destroy videos of Kelly having sex with minors. He has pleaded not guilty, as has Kelly and his other co-defendant Milton Brown.
“I think it’s obvious these sorts of proceedings weigh heavily on an individual, especially a person like
Derrel McDavid who has lived a law-abiding life,” McDavid’s attorney Vadim Glozman said after the court hearing. “We’re looking forward to our day in court to make sure he sees his accusers, has a chance to cross-examine them and get vindicated as we expect him to be.”
Kelly’s attorney Mike Leonard said just because a trial date was set first in Chicago, that does not necessarily mean that is where Kelly will be tried first.
He said he expects federal prosecutors in New York to push for the judge there to set a trial date as well. Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the Cook County criminal cases against Kelly has said he wants to start trial by early next year.
Leonard said the multiple cases has set up a rare and “difficult” situation for Kelly’s defense team.
“We got the New York materials dumped on us really at the same time as the Chicago materials,” Leonard said. “On the one hand, we’re trying to develop an overall strategy for all the cases, but we have to be responsive on each case to the judge’s deadlines.”
Kelly is being held in the federal jail in downtown Chicago while he awaits trial. He was recently released from a specialized housing unit and into the general population after his attorneys filed a motion claiming he was being held in solitary confinement in violation of his constitutional rights.
Leonard said there have not been any issues since Kelly was moved into the general population.
“Robert has had no trouble with other inmates. I don’t expect him to. He’s an extremely amiable guy,” Leonard said. “If you saw Robert today, he looks probably the best he’s looked since this ordeal began. … You can see kind of an unburdening of his spirit, the fact that he’s now in general population.”
Kelly is seeking to be released from jail altogether while he awaits trial. His attorneys are scheduled to argue for his release later this month. In a motion, they say Kelly could be confined to his home with electronic monitoring without “any risk of flight or danger to the community.”
Even if Leinenweber does agree to release Kelly, the federal judge overseeing his case in New York has also ordered he be held in jail, so Kelly would have to convince the judge there to release him as well.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid. The Associated Press contributed.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of one of R. Kelly’s co-defendants. His name is Derrel McDavid.