What fate does jailed Grammy winner and accused sexual predator R. Kelly? On Monday, it was more sex-crime charges.
The question is: How will the U.S. Department of Justice, the state of Illinois and now the state of Minnesota proceed on four sets of felonies he’s facing?
On Monday in Minneapolis, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Kelly is being charged with two felony counts of prostitution and solicitation involving a girl under 18. Kelly is accused of soliciting the girl after meeting her at a concert in 2001 in Minneapolis.
Although, prosecutors in Illinois and New York are at the ready. The 52-year-old singer is accused of multiple sex crimes, including sexual abuse of underage girls, sex-trafficking, racketeering, production and possession of child pornography, obstruction of justice, and transportation of women and girls across state lines for the purposes of illegal sexual activity.
Kelly pleads not guilty to charges filed up until Monday. His lawyers have already indicated at least one of their defense strategies will be to depict him as a victim of accusers who have “groupie remorse.”
Gloria Allred, the attorney who represents multiple Kelly accusers, including the accuser in the Minnesota case and other #MeToo movement accusers, held a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, accompanied by one of her clients, to attack Kelly’s lawyers for their “insulting and inaccurate” tactics.
“Many victims of Mr. Kelly were under age and, as a matter of law, cannot consent to sexual abuse by Mr. Kelly or anyone else,” Allred told reporters. “To suggest that they did consent or have consented … is extremely upsetting to many victims who were vulnerable and were clearly victims of a predator and his enablers.”
Where is R. Kelly presently?
He’s in jail, but it’s not clear yet whether he is back in Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center or if he is still at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he was taken on Thursday for his Friday arraignment in New York.
Kelly is currently locked up pending trial because he’s been denied bail twice in the two federal cases, in New York and Illinois. Prosecutors argued that Kelly should be kept in jail because he’s a flight risk and a potential “danger” to the community, in part because one of the accusers in the New York case claims he gave her a sexually transmitted disease.
His lawyers are planning to make another attempt to persuade the judge in the New York case to release him on his own recognizance, arguing that he needs to be released to better aid in his defense.
“It’s rare to have three cases pending at same time – it’s not unheard of but it is unusual,” says Michael Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor and DOJ trial attorney now in private practice in New York as a specialist in defending white-collar crime cases at the Cole Schotz law firm.
Adam Citron, a former New York state prosecutor turned defense attorney, predicts “the usual procedure” will be followed when related state and federal cases are filed against the same defendant at the same time: Prosecutors, lawyers and judges will confer and decide on a course of action.
“They will have the various trials in an orderly fashion,” Citron says. “They will try one case and then the others. They will not have three trials going on at one time.”
Will R.Kelly’s two federal cases be merged?
It’s possible but still unclear, says Lara Yeretsian, a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles who’s been following the case. She thinks the New York case might be up first.
“He’s physically in New York now, which tells me that they’re going to pursue that case first … and then transfer him to the next court,” Yeretsian says. “Each case would stay where it is unless there are sufficient jurisdictional grounds to combine the federal cases.
“Tactically, it would be up to defense counsel to ask to combine the cases, but there would have to be a connection between the New York and Illinois cases for them to be combined.”
Monu Bedi, a criminal law professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, says he thinks the Chicago case will come up first. He thinks it’s unlikely the federal cases will merge because the accusers are different, as are some of the alleged crimes.
“That said, I do think that some witnesses will overlap and this probably explains why the indictments came out so close to one another,” Bedi says. “These prosecutors are on the same page and while they might be in different districts, the end goal is the same – to put Kelly away.”
If not, which case will go first?
“There are a lot of dynamics here,” says Weinstein. “The defense want the best defensible case to go first; which of the three is most likely to move quickly, for instance. Prosecutors look on the flip side and look for the strongest possible case to prosecute (first).”
Bedi predicts the federal cases will proceed first because they are stronger.
“Unlike the state case, which only involves allegations of sexual abuse against underage girls, the federal cases are broader in scope and involve conspiracy related charges implicating other individuals,” Bedi says.
“Generally, the prosecutors come to an agreement between themselves as to who should go first, so I would suspect the same thing here.”
Will the state of Illinois case be put on hold while the federal cases proceed?
“The state usually defers to the feds but it’s not always the case,” says Weinstein.
Yeretsian says it’s better for Kelly if the federal case goes first because the state case could be wrapped into it. But the high-profile nature of the Kelly case means “usual” practices might not be followed, she said.
“The state could strike a deal with the feds that results in the state prosecution ending, but this is a high-profile case, so I don’t foresee that happening,” she says.
Are authorities ‘ganging up’ on Kelly with three sets of indictments?
It might seem that way, but Weinstein believes they can justify the multiple indictments. They come after authorities in multiple states failed to prosecute Kelly earlier despite two decades of hints and allegations about sexual misconduct with underage girls.
“Yes, there was a time lag of 10 to 15 years, but they’re saying even if we were asleep at the switch, we’re awake now, we’re watching, we have competent evidence and we’re ready to move forward,” Weinstein says. “You can never overlook crimes like this, especially if there is a pattern. They have new evidence come to light, new witnesses have come forward and they’re pursuing it.”
Kelly has not been indicted in Minnesota.
What do state and federal prosecutors have to say?
Aside from their usual policy of keeping mouths firmly shut, there’s a U.S. district judge’s order in the Northern District of Illinois barring any further public blabbing by lawyers about the evidence in that case. The 13-count indictment accuses Kelly of sex acts with five minors, recording some of the acts on videos, conspiracy to intimidate victims and concealing evidence to obstruct law enforcement.
A similar protective order is anticipated in the Eastern District of New York where Kelly just pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment charging racketeering, sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor and transportation of women and girls across state lines for illegal sexual activity.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in Chicago is prosecuting Kelly on multiple sex-crimes, including aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault by force, aggravated criminal sexual abuse and aggravated criminal sexual abuse against an accuser between the ages of 13 and 17.
She hasn’t said a public word about her case since she first solicited for accusers at a Chicago news conference in January following the airing of the Kelly-damning series “Surviving R. Kelly” on Lifetime.
Foxx has no reason to talk and plenty of reasons to stay mum: She’s been been under near constant fire since March from politicians, police, prosecutors, lawyers, judges and scores of ordinary Chicagoans for her office’s abrupt decision to drop a 16-count felony indictment against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
(He claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate attack in downtown Chicago; the cops said he staged the whole thing and then lied to police about it.)