R. Kelly was conspicuously absent during a court pre-trial hearing in his ongoing sex abuse case in Chicago on Thursday (Aug. 15). The singer (born Robert Kelly), 52, who has been behind bars for more than a month on racketeering and child pornography charges in New York and Illinois, was a no-show at the status hearing for the multiple counts of sexual assault pending against him in Cook County, Illinois, a situation his attorney tells Billboard was not his client's fault.
"He's in federal custody and it's incumbent on the state to get him to Cook County… I can't drive over in my Maserati and pick him up and they didn't do it," attorney Steve Greenberg tells Billboard. "They claimed he refused to come when nobody came to get him. What they said was just not true. It was the State's Attorney lying to over up their own screw-up over the fact that they didn't get him." A spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney office did not return requests for comment at press time.
According to WTTW in Chicago, Kelly refused to be transported to the courtroom in the Leighton Criminal Court Building for the proceeding, a situation that reportedly angered Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood, who insisted that the singer "has to be here"; Flood could not be reached for comment at press time. Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez reportedly told Flood that transportation had been arranged to bring Kelly from the federal correction center where he's being held, leading Flood to delay ruling on Gonzalez's attempt to increase bond requirements on Kelly.
Kelly has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the raft of sexual misconduct charges against him, which include more than two dozen federal sex crime charges in Illinois of conspiracy to receive child pornography, four counts of producing child pornography and five counts of enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity as well as racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and sexual exploitation of a child charges in New York and two counts of prostitution and solicitation with a person under 18 in Minnesota. According to the Associated Press, the 40 counts Kelly is facing carry a combined maxiumum prison sentence of more than 500 years.
"Saying he refused to transport is a lie," says Greenberg. "I told them that he didn't want to come… there was no reason to bring him and he didn't want to come. He didn't want to go through all that. I also told them that the Marshall's service didn’t want to go through the hassle and everyone was fine with that."
Greenberg says that that if someone from the Cook County Sherrif's Office had shown up to get Kelly he would have appeared in court. "Because of who he is you have to put extra manpower on it," he says of the additional precautions that are necessary for his high-profile client. "You can move a normal guy in a regular van, but with him you have ot have a car in front and behind and extra guys to get him into the building because he's not just some nameless, faceless guy who can just walk into the courtroom."
Asked how Kelly is doing, Greenberg says he's not been to see the singer in several days, but obviously "he's not happy… he's in jail and he would like to get out of jail because he's accused of all kinds of things that aren't true." Greenberg believes Kelly should be out on bail and that he's not a flight risk or a danger to the community. The next status hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 17.
Kelly has been in custody without bond since his arrest in Chicago on July 11 after two separate federal grand jury indictments in Illinois and New York, which alleged that the singer recruited women for sex and spent thousands of dollars buying back videotapes of his sexual exploits. The singer is slated to be arraigned in Minneapolis on the child prostitution charges on Sept. 12. His current stint behind bars came five months after the singer was releasd on bail on 10 additonal aggravated sexual abuse charges brought by Illinois prosecutors.