R. Kelly’s second attempt to be released from federal jail over the coronavirus pandemic has been denied despite several cases of COVID-19 at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, who denied Kelly’s first request earlier this month, ruled Tuesday that the embattled singer remains a flight risk and could possibly “intimidate prospective witnesses” if he’s released.
“The risks associated with the defendant’s release have not changed,” Donnelly wrote. “The defendant continues to downplay the risk that he might flee, citing his attendance record in connection with the 2002 state criminal charges against him.”
Donnelly continued: “Even aside from the risk of flight, the risk that the defendant would try to obstruct justice or intimidate prospective witnesses has not dissipated, and poses a danger to the community.”
One of Kelly’s attorneys, Mike Leonard, said he’s “disappointed” with the judge’s decision. In a statement to USA TODAY, he said: “The Government failed to come forward with any credible evidence, beyond conspiracy theories, that Mr. Kelly is a risk of flight … or a danger to the community.”
When asked about the ruling, Kelly’s lead attorney, Steve Greenberg, told USA TODAY that “sometimes it’s better to not comment.”
Kelly is locked up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago awaiting trials on multiple sex-crime charges in four jurisdictions in three states, including in the Northern District in Illinois and in the Eastern District of New York.
On April 7, Donnelly denied Kelly’s first request for release on grounds that he had demonstrated “no compelling reasons” for a temporary release and he remains a “flight risk.”
At the time of the first request, there were no inmate cases of COVID-19 at the MCC.
On April 16, Leonard renewed the request after six inmates and seven staff members tested positive for the virus, according to the emergency motion obtained by USA TODAY.
“We are quite surprised and disappointed by the Judge’s Order,” Leonard told USA TODAY. “We believe that it completely overlooks the now well known fact that the situation and conditions at the MCC Chicago are dangerous to Mr. Kelly and his fellow detainees.”
He continued: “In fact, we pointed out in our filing that the number of COVID-19 positive detainees had doubled in a matter of a couple of days, as had the number of infected personnel – and that it is not just 6 detainees who have been impacted; instead it is two dozen and climbing between detainees and personnel.”
Kelly is just one of several celebrity inmates seeking to be released from jail or prison citing coronavirus fears, including Bill Cosby, Michael Avenatti and the rapper YNW Melly.
So far, only the Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, 23, who has asthma, has been released early to home confinement with four months to go on his two-year sentence for a racketeering conviction.
Prisons and jails, both state and federal, are among the places where the contagious coronavirus is spreading fast among inmates and guards, with the number testing positive for the potentially lethal disease rising in the close confines of lockups.