A federal judge on Tuesday denied accused serial sexual abuser R. Kelly’s request to be released from jail, rejecting his lawyers’ claims that he is at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Last month, the disgraced R&B singer’s lawyers filed a motion arguing Kelly should be released and placed under home confinement to protect him from coronavirus, citing a recent surgery. They also argued that the Chicago jail where he is awaiting trial has not enacted sufficient protections and that social distancing guidelines have made it difficult for them to meet with him.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly rejected the attempt, pointing out that Kelly, 53, is younger than the age group that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider to be at high risk. His alleged history of abuse means that he continues to be “a flight risk or a danger to the community,” she wrote in a court filing, and his lawyers have failed to prove that has not changed.
In addition, Donnelly said his surgery in January, which was reportedly to repair a hernia, has been completed, and he “does not explain how his surgical history places him at a higher risk of severe illness.”
“While I am sympathetic to the defendant’s understandable anxiety about COVID-19, he has not established compelling reasons warranting his release,” she wrote Tuesday. “At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the MCC in Chicago. The Bureau of Prisons has announced emergency measures to protect inmates and staff, including suspending all legal and social visits, suspending inmate facility transfers, making soap available to inmates, screening and testing inmates and staff, and modifying operations at detention facilities like the MCC to maximize social distancing.”
According to the Chicago Sun Times, at least two staff members at the jail have tested positive. Across the country, prisons and jails have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, and they often contain conditions that could exacerbate the spread of the virus.
Kelly, whose years of alleged serial sexual predation — including holding women and girls against their will and abusing girls as young as 13 — were enumerated in the groundbreaking Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” faces a litany of sex crimes charges on both the federal and state levels. He is currently awaiting two federal trials for charges in Chicago and New York, with the Chicago trial scheduled for October and the New York trial in July.
In denying Kelly’s request for release, Donnelly also noted that the latter will likely be postponed, given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
“As conditions return to normal, the defendant and his lawyers will have additional time to prepare for trial,” she wrote. “In any event, the defendant can continue to contact his attorneys by phone and email during this crisis.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.