R. Kelly’s federal trial for racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and enticement is set to begin Aug. 9 in a Brooklyn courtroom.
Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, appeared telephonically along with his legal team for a status hearing Thursday (April 15) where U.S. Judge Ann M. Donnelly firmly set his trial date. Both Kelly attorneys and the prosecution told Donnelly that they were ready to proceed on that date. Questionnaires to potential jurors will begin to be sent out on July 26.
Michael Leonard, an attorney on the singer’s legal team, tells Billboard that Kelly is looking forward to the upcoming trial. “He’s excited about the possibility of his case to be heard in a fulsome way where witness testimony can be tested and put in the proper context,” he says. When asked how his client is doing in custody, Leonard said that this has been a difficult time for anyone, not just Kelly, to be in federal custody because of the extreme restrictions due to COVID-19.
Kelly is facing charges in NY alleging that for over two decades he was the leader of a racketeering enterprise made up of managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants, and runners who recruited women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer. The sexual activity was often filmed and photographed by Kelly, according to the court filing by the Department of Justice. The charges against him involve six different victims.
Donnelly assured Kelly’s defense team that after the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that she expected the trial to proceed in a fashion that is as normal as possible. Depending on the circumstances later this summer, Donnelly said headsets in the courtroom may or may not be needed to give defense lawyers a way to communicate with Kelly. The court has already implemented other COVID safety protocols such as screening all detainee’s prior to coming to court to ensure that their temperature is lower than 100.4 as well as plexiglass dividers in the courtroom.
Prosecutors announced at the hearing that they will now begin the process of moving Kelly from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where he has been in custody since July 2019, to a similar facility in Brooklyn, New York.
During his lengthy wait for a trial, Kelly has asked the court multiple times to be released citing COVID-19 and other factors, but his requests have been denied. He is also awaiting trial in Illinois regarding separate sexual abuse allegations.
Steve Greenberg, one of Kelly’s lawyer, tells Billboard that he is pleased that the trial date has finally been set and that he is confident about his case.