Singer R. Kelly at a September 2019 hearing in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Antonio Perez – Pool via Getty Images
Topline: Singer R. Kelly will remain in jail after a federal judge denied his bail request Tuesday, which was submitted in March over fears of contracting the coronavirus behind bars, becoming the latest incarcerated public figure to have such a request rejected.
- U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of Brooklyn, New York rejected Kelly’s request, citing his potential to be a flight risk, to intimidate or otherwise interfere with witnesses in his case.
- 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, the Associated Press reported.
- Kelly is being held in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center as he awaits trial on federal child pornography, obstruction of justice and racketeering charges in Illinois, New York and Minnesota; he denies ever abusing anyone and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
- Kelly requested release on bail March 26, claiming in a filing that he was concerned he would contract the coronavirus in jail due to the lack of availability of soap.
- “Requiring people to reside in a custodial jail setting is tantamount to making them drink poison,” Kelly’s lawyers wrote in the filing, adding that the singer was in an at-risk group due to his age and existing, unnamed health conditions.
- According to the AP, three staff members working in the Chicago jail have tested positive for COVID-19, while zero inmates have tested positive.
News peg: Prisoners are considered especially vulnerable to the virus due to their close quarters. Attorney General Bill Barr on March 26 directed federal prison officials to identify medically compromised inmates for home confinement. In city and county jails, coronavirus cases have been spiking (with over 330 inmates and staff diagnosed) while nearly 60 cases have been confirmed on the federal level.
Key background: Kelly joins convicted extortionist and former celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, along with convicted former Trump associate Michael Cohen in filing early release requests citing fears of coronavirus, both of which were denied. Convicted sex offender and comedian Bill Cosby petitioned for early release, with his lawyer citing his elderly age and health issues as justification, but no decision has been made. Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff also made a similar request, after asking for early release in February due to a terminal kidney condition. Rapper Tekashi6ix9ine, however, was granted release to home confinement Thursday by the judge overseeing his case; the judge said he would have ordered home confinement for the asthmatic rapper, had he known about the coronavirus in December.