CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal judge in New York has denied R. Kelly’s request to be released from jail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ruling the singer’s attorneys have not shown he is at high risk of contracting the virus behind bars.
Kelly, 53, has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest on federal charges in Chicago and New York last July. In petitions filed in federal court in both Chicago and New York last month, Kelly’s attorneys claimed the singer is afraid of catching the novel coronavirus because of the close quarters at the federal jail downtown.
“The risk is real; (the Bureau of Prisons) has requested that self-reporting be curtailed, and those who do report are quarantined,” attorneys wrote. “Those now detained cannot be protected from the coming jail epidemic, and if infected will without question suffer from inferior health care.”
Attorneys went on to claim that Kelly is at risk because of his age and health, and argued that social distancing is not possible at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
However, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York turned down Kelly’s request to be released, ruling his attorneys had presented no evidence that he is considered at high risk of catching the virus.
“Despite his contentions, the defendant has not demonstrated that he is “within the group of people the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized as most-at risk for contracting COVID-19,” Donnelly wrote. “The defendant is fifty-three years old, twelve years younger than the cohort of ‘older adults’ defined by the CDC as at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Although the defendant has had a surgery during his
incarceration, he does not explain how his surgical history places him at a higher risk of severe illness. Moreover, officials in Chicago have advised the government that doctors have completed all treatment for the defendant’s recent operation.”
In objecting to Kelly’s bid for release, federal prosecutors pointed out the MCC has an in-house team of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers, and no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the inmates.
“While the government recognizes the seriousness of COVID-19 and the increased risk to certain federal prisoners, a generalized risk alone does not justify releasing the entire Bureau of Prisons population, much less a prisoner being held for racketeering charges involving crimes against specified victims with a history of obstructing justice,” prosecutors wrote.
Kelly also had filed a request for release with the federal judge overseeing his case in Chicago, but Donnelly’s ruling renders that request moot. Even if the judge in Chicago were to grant him bail, he would remain in custody on the New York charges.
Kelly faces sex crime charges in four separate jurisdictions in Chicago, New York, and Minnesota.
The federal charges in New York accuse Kelly of using his fame to recruit young women and girls for illegal sexual activity. The racketeering case also accuses him of kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a child, and forced labor. That trial is scheduled for July.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago have charged him with videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, and paying hush money and intimidating witnesses to cover up his crimes. That trial is scheduled for October.
Cook County prosecutors have charged Kelly with multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse against four women years ago. The first of those trials is scheduled for September.
Minnesota prosecutors have charged him with engaging in prostitution with an underage girl. No trial date has been set in that case.
It’s unclear if any of Kelly’s trials will be held as currently scheduled, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If convicted of all the charges, Kelly could face the rest of his life in prison.