CHICAGO (CBS) — The third time was not the charm for singer R. Kelly, who again was denied a request to be released from jail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, Kelly’s lawyers filed their third motion requesting he be released on bail, arguing he’d recently been diagnosed as prediabetic, and therefore was at greater risk of being infected with the virus while he is in federal lockup in Chicago, awaiting multiple trials on sex crime charges.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg wrote in his filing that Kelly underwent medical tests in March, and jail officials withheld them for nearly a month before providing him with a report on Thursday, revealing he “is 1/10 of one point below diabetic.” Greenberg said Kelly also has high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“These conditions also make him a higher risk for bridging the 1/10th and having diabetes, as does the fact he’s overweight,” Kelly said. “It is a fact that people who are diabetic are at a much higher risk for serious complications should they be infected with Covid 19.”
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly was not swayed, saying a diagnosis of prediabetes is a “relatively common and treatable condition.”
“I do not agree that a diagnosis of prediabetes presents a compelling reason for the defendant’s release. While the CDC has identified diabetes as a risk factor for COVID-19, the same is not true for prediabetes, a condition that affects nearly one in three American adults,” she wrote. “My review of the defendant’s medical records reflect that he is receiving more than adequate care to manage this condition. The health care professionals at the MCC see him regularly, and are working with him to implement lifestyle changes so that his condition improves. Those recommendations include diet, weight loss and exercise.”
Donnelly also sided with prosecutors that Kelly remains a flight risk and a potential danger to the community. Kelly’s lawyers have argued the court could order him to be held on home confinement and electronic monitoring at his condo in the South Loop, and have noted that he attended every required court appearance in his previous child pornography case, which resulted in his acquittal in 2008.
Federal prosecutors, however, have noted a grand jury indicted Kelly on charges of paying hush money and intimidating witnesses in that case, and Donnelly agreed that is sufficient reason to hold Kelly in jail.
“The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, but, as explained above, the grand jury’s probable cause finding that he obstructed justice in the past as well as the nature of the other charges are relevant factors in the pretrial detention analysis,” Donnelly wrote. “The defendant is charged in Illinois and New York with extraordinarily serious crimes, for which he faces a long prison term if convicted. That prospect makes him a flight risk. The nature of the charges— which include crimes against minor victims, threats against potential witnesses and paying bribes to keep witnesses from cooperating—make him a danger to the community, including that he could attempt to tamper with prospective witnesses.”
Kelly is in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 49 confirmed active COVID-19 cases among inmates, and 15 among jail staff; while 90 inmates and 14 staff have recovered from the virus.
Defense attorneys have argued the data being provided by the Bureau of Prisons is unreliable, in part due to a lack of testing in the jail, accusing officials of miscounting or intentionally misrepresenting the number of cases at the MCC.
Kelly, 53, 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. Jury selection in that case is now scheduled to begin on Sept. 29.
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.