R. Kelly to be taken to NY to face federal charges there, judge orders

R. Kelly (R) appears in court with his attorney Steve Greenberg, for a hearing on state sex-crime charges against him, on March 22, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/via AP)

R. Kelly, who doesn’t like to fly, could be spending some time in the air in coming weeks, after a judge in Chicago ordered him to be transferred to New York for an Aug. 2 hearing on federal sex-crime charges there.

Judge Harry Leinenweber, who presided over a bond hearing for Kelly in Chicago on a different set of federal sex-crime charges there, issued the transfer order on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Kelly’s lead lawyer in Chicago, Steve Greenberg, told USA TODAY he won’t know when the actual transfer will take place.

“The Bureau of Prisons will move him at their leisure, without telling me,” he said in an email. “Then he will be back to Chicago” after the hearing in New York. 

Kelly has been held without bond at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, after being arrested July 11 on separate indictments by the Northern District of Illinois and the Eastern District of New York, which is based in Brooklyn.

He pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in Illinois.

In addition, Kelly faces state sexual-abuse charges in Illinois; he has pleaded not guilty to those and a trial date has not yet been set. 

The multiple new accusations against him involve multiple accusers, most of whom were underage at the time of the alleged crimes. Kelly is accused in the federal indictments of sex with underage girls, crossing state lines for sex with underage girls, racketeering, producing child pornography (by filming himself with underage girls) and obstruction of justice.

During his bond hearing on Tuesday in Chicago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krull argued against allowing Kelly out on bond, describing him as a flight risk and “an extreme danger to the community, especially to minor girls.” 

In this courtroom sketch, R. Kelly, center, appears before U.S. Magistrate Shelia M. Finnegan in the Northern District of Illinois, on July 12, 2019, in Chicago. Also standing with Kelly is his attorney Steve Greenberg and an unidentified prosecutor. (Photo: Tom Gianni/ AP)

Greenberg unsuccessfully countered that Kelly had no means to flee because he has no money. And he’s no fan of flying. “Unlike his most famous song, ‘I Believe I Can Fly,’ Mr. Kelly doesn’t like to fly,” Greenberg told Judge Leinenweber.

It is not clear yet which set of charges Kelly will face first, whether the federal charges will be combined, for instance, and whether the federal cases will proceed ahead of the Illinois case, which is not uncommon when defendants are charged in multiple jurisdictions.

It’s also not yet clear whether Kelly will be hiring extra sets of lawyers to defend him on the federal cases, since he claims to be broke. So far, Greenberg has been his lead attorney of a team of six. 

Kelly, 52, has been dogged by rumors and accusations of sexual misconduct with girls and women for decades but his legal peril has deepened since January. That’s when Lifetime aired a film series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” which revived those allegations and explored them through interviews with his accusers, some of them appearing for the first time on camera. 

The only time he’s faced a criminal trial, in 2008 in Chicago on child porn charges, he was acquitted. Now he’s likely to be confined to a jail cell for months or even years before facing possibly three more juries.

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