Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood on Wednesday set an ambitious schedule for criminal charges against Chicago R&B singer R. Kelly, telling attorneys that he wants to start trial by early next year.
Kelly is charged with 18 counts of sexual assault and abuse of four women, including three who were minors at the time of the alleged abuse. The charges are spread across four separate cases, one for each alleged victim.
At a hearing Wednesday, Flood pushed prosecutors to choose which case they want to proceed with first and directed defense attorneys to file their planned motions as soon as possible.
“Because quite frankly, I’m looking at setting the elected case for trial next year, early next year,” Flood said. “Obviously it depends on the motions and things of that nature, and which case the state makes an election on, but my point is that I’m going to move these cases along.”
If Flood is able to keep to that schedule, it would mark a drastic departure from the length of most serious cases in Cook County and the timeline in Kelly’s last criminal case.
Kelly was indicted in 2002 of making child pornography because of a video allegedly showing him having sex with an underage girl. It took six years for that case to go to trial. Kelly was ultimately found not guilty.
On Wednesday, Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg said he did not expect it to take six years for the current cases to be resolved. But he said they were planning to file “a lot of motions.”
“The case will go to trial when it’s ready to go to trial. I mean I understand the judge wants it to go to trial early next year, and if that’s what he wants, we’ll work towards that,” Greenberg said after court. “If we need to be ready we’ll be ready. I mean it’s his courtroom, he’s in charge, and we’ll do what we have to do.”
Also on Wednesday, prosecutors turned over to the defense a video linked to one of the cases that they say shows Kelly having sex with an underage girl.
“That DVD does contain pornographic images involving a child,” Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord told the judge.
Flood entered a protective order on the video, prohibiting it from being shared with the public.
“If there’s any violations of this protective order, I’m going to impose sanctions, severe sanctions, OK, I just want everybody on notice with that,” Flood said. “Plus … there could be criminal implications to violation of this protective order.”
After the hearing, Greenberg said the tape handed over today is the same one that was at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial. When asked how he could know that, having not yet seen the video, Greenberg said “because I know.”
“I know enough about that case, I know enough about how things worked, I’ve looked at enough of the discovery. It’s the same tape,” Greenberg said.
State’s attorney spokeswoman Tandra Simonton did not immediately respond to questions about whether it is in fact the same video.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.