R. Kelly is remaining right where he is, despite a request for early release from prison. In March, Kelly filed for early release, claiming concern over the potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the MCC Chicago detention facility where he currently awaits trial for a plethora of crimes including sex trafficking. While his concerns aren’t completely unfounded — Meek Mill has pushed governors to adopt his safety plan for prisons to contain an outbreak, while Tekashi 69 was actually granted a release this month — a federal judge did not deem Kelly to be at any increased risk of contracting the virus.
Judge Ann M. Donnelly explains in court documents obtained by Complex that “While I am sympathetic to the defendant’s understandable anxiety about COVID-19, he has not established compelling reasons warranting his release. At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the MCC in Chicago.” Furthermore, she writes, “The Bureau of Prisons has announced emergency measures to protect inmates and staff, including suspending all legal and social visits, suspending inmate facility transfers, making soap available to inmates, screening and testing inmates and staff, and modifying operations at detention facilities like the MCC to maximize social distancing.”
She also notes that Kelly is 53 years old, well younger than the age group of “older adults” considered high-risk by the CDC. Finally, Donnelly also considers Kelly a flight risk because of his established history of bribing and intimidating witnesses. As she reminds the court, Kelly “is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses. The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.”
Donnelly rejected Kelly’s claims that he needs to be in face-to-face contact with his lawyers as well. MCC has suspended visiting hours — which actually is a smart move to help prevent an outbreak — but Kelly can contact his attorneys via email or phone. Meanwhile, his original trial date has likely been postponed because of coronavirus safety measures, so his legal team should have even more time to prepare their case (which may not even help him much, as he faces similar charges in a half-dozen jurisdictions). For the time being, it looks like R. Kelly will just have to get comfortable being on lockdown.
Read Complex‘s full report here.