On Tuesday, a Brooklyn judge denied R. Kelly’s request to be released from prison due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The court found that he is not among the inmates most endangered by the disease. Kelly is currently being held at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is awaiting trial on federal child pornography, obstruction of justice, and racketeering charges in Illinois, New York, and Minnesota; he denies having abused anyone and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Kelly is currently 53 years old and on March 26, Kelly’s attorneys, Steve Greenberg and Tom Farinella asked that he be released, arguing that his age and recent surgery are risk factors making him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. ‘Requiring people to reside in a custodial jail setting is tantamount to making them drink poison,’ Kelly’s lawyers wrote in their filing. The attorneys asked that he be placed on home confinement at the Roosevelt Collections Loft apartment complex in Chicago, Illinois.
The attorneys also complained that the prison’s new restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have made it impossible for them to meet with Kelly and prepare for trial.
Three staff members working in the Chicago prison have tested positive for COVID-19, however, no inmates have tested positive. Prisoners are considered particularly vulnerable to the virus due to their close quarters. Kelly’s attorneys cited a long list of other defendants who have been granted release due to risks associated with the pandemic.
‘This is not a request to open the doors and allow all inmates out, this is a specific request concerning a specific inmate,’ they argued. In opposition to these arguments, the prosecution noted that MCC Chicago inmates are given free soap, and have the option to buy more soap from the commissary, which can protect them from COVID-19. ‘Simply residing in MCC Chicago cannot be a basis for being released,’ they wrote.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly denied the motion, finding that the risks, due to which Kelly is being held in custody, remain regardless of the coronavirus.
R. Kelly has long avoided prison, settling out of court, will continue to await trial in detainment. ‘The defendant is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses,’ the judge wrote. ‘The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.’ She also noted that federal prosecutors said that prisons around the country have taken steps to prevent transmission of the virus and that an inmate’s ‘generalized risk’ of catching it does not justify their release.