A date was set on Tuesday for the singer R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction charges, but even the judge said the date was “not set in stone” given the pandemic-related delays that continue to bog down the court.
Judge Harry Leinenweber of U.S. District Court set Kelly’s trial for Sept. 13, five months after another federal trial Kelly faces in New York.
Prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois told Leinenweber they would need three weeks to present evidence against Kelly, who is facing charges that he and two former employees conspired to fix his 2008 state trial in Cook County on child pornography charges by paying off witnesses and victims to get them to change their stories.
Mr. Kelly is also scheduled to face trial on April 7 in New York on racketeering charges. In that case, an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn alleges that Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, and his associates ran a criminal enterprise that recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact and then isolated and threatened them to keep them under control and prevent them from going to the authorities.
If convicted in the New York case, Mr. Kelly faces up to 20 years in prison. The federal charges in Chicago have the potential to add decades more in prison, and Kelly is also facing state charges of criminal sexual abuse that were filed in Chicago in February 2019.
Kelly, 53, has been held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago since his arrest in July 2019. Since then, his lawyer, Steven Greenberg, has unsuccessfully made at least six arguments for Kelly’s release, citing the danger of the coronavirus and an attack on Kelly over the summer by another prisoner, a member of the Latin Kings street gang who was later sentenced to life in prison on an unrelated racketeering conviction.
Most cases in federal court in Chicago were halted in the spring, but jury trials resumed in August with new safety protocols. Even so, Leinenweber has said that Chicago’s federal courthouse would not be able to accommodate a trial with three defendants with those protocols in place.