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Judge says R. Kelly must remain locked up amid coronavirus crisis

R. Kelly
Singer R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.
(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune via AP)

A federal judge in New York on Tuesday denied R&B singer R. Kelly’s request for release from jail in Chicago. The singer’s lawyers had argued for release based on concern about contracting the coronavirus behind bars.

“The defendant is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of Brooklyn wrote in her denial. “The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.”

The 53-year-old Kelly has been in custody in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago since he was indicted on federal child pornography, obstruction of justice and racketeering charges.

Three staff members at the federal lockup have tested positive for the virus, but no inmates have been reported with infections. Cases have been reported at Cook County Jail in Chicago and other jails and prisons around the country. Kelly’s attorneys filed a motion in late March arguing that people in such facilities are at particular risk of contracting the virus.

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The latest California corrections workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 are two nurses at the state’s medical prison near Stockton.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said the Chicago lockup and other federal facilities have taken steps to prevent the virus from spreading. Further, they wrote that a “generalized risk” that an inmate could contract the virus doesn’t justify release.

Kelly has denied ever abusing anyone and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. He 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.


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