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R. Kelly Denies He's a Flight Risk, Saying He Owes $2 Million to the IRS

R. Kelly
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

R. Kelly leaves the Leighton Courthouse following his status hearing, in relation to the sex abuse allegations made against him, on May 7, 2019 in Chicago. 

R. Kelly denies arguments by prosecutors that he is flush with cash making him a flight risk if released from prison pending trial.

Kelly says despite the fact that he received $200,000 in royalty proceeds for the first part of 2020, that a portion of the money goes to agents and managers, among others. He also says he is deeply in debt to the IRS, owing them close to $2 million. Kelly has been petitioning the court to release him due to the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the Chicago prison system.

“The monies the Government claims Mr. Kelly has access to are not the kind of funds that would present an opportunity to flee, let alone live a life covertly in exile,” Kelly’s attorney Michael Leonard states in a letter submitted to the court April 19. “It similarly ignores the fact that the current environment of restricted traveling commercial activities would make it that much more difficult than before, and albeit impossible for a celebrity like Mr. Kelly, to flee from prosecution.”

Kelly’s attorney filed this letter with the court after the government submitted a motion (April 17) that R. Kelly is a flight risk and a danger to the community. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys are asking the federal judge overseeing his case to keep the singer in prison pending trial.  Prosecutors filed their motion  after Kelly made a second emergency plea to the New York court on April 16th to release him from prison to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The singer’s latest bid came 10 days after the NY Federal Court shot down his previous request to be released pending trial.

In opposing Kelly’s release, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue says that not only does the singer not have any underlying medical conditions, but also that he is a flight risk and a danger to the community. In his memo to the court, Donoghue reminds the court that the charges against Kelly in Chicago include that he participated in a long-running conspiracy to obstruct justice and a conspiracy to receive child pornography including during the years he was on bail awaiting trial. Donoghue argues that there is probable cause to believe that Kelly committed at least five serious crimes while out on bail.

Prosecutors also argued that it is “disingenuous” for Kelly to say he has “no means to go anywhere” and that the singer still continues to have “significant network of individuals to assist him” on the outside and to do his bidding including posting on social media in support of him and overtly trying to intimidate his accusers.

Leonard, though, denies the government’s assertion that there is a “network of individuals” ready to assist Mr. Kelly in his flight from justice. He says his client has demonstrated his commitment to stand trial by consistently showing up for  every court hearing. In addition, Kelly’s attorney argues the singer’s continued confinement substantially impaired his ability to prepare for trial. Leonards says “Mr. Kelly has an extremely limited ability to read” and the only correspondence is through a weekly short telephone call. However, he says the prison phone “may be one of the most infected items in the jail” and Kelly might not even want to use it.  His attorney’s have argued that if released on bond as requested, the singer would live with his girlfriend Joycelyn Savage at a Chicago apartment complex.

The court has not yet ruled on Kelly’s latest request.

Kelly faces several dozen counts of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York, from sexual assault to heading a racketeering scheme aimed at supplying Kelly with girls. He was jailed in July and has been awaiting trial in a jail one block from the Chicago courthouse, where he attends pre trial hearings. He has participated in hearings in his New York case by video.

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