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R. Kelly’s New York Trial Pushed to September Victoria Bekiempis

R. Kelly’s Brooklyn Federal Court trial for racketeering and sexual-misconduct charges has been moved from summer to late September, as the coronavirus shutdown has caused delays in the court system. During a telephone conference Thursday afternoon, Judge Ann M. Donnelly recognized that the July 7 trial date likely wasn’t realistic, and scheduled jury selection for September 29. Prospective jurors will fill out questionnaires two weeks prior. Questionnaires help prosecutors and defense lawyers speed up jury selection, by disqualifying obviously unsuitable jurors early on. Opening arguments would start whenever a panel of jurors is picked. It was recognized, however, that this new trial date might not stick, depending how the outbreak is impacting courts at that time. One of Kelly’s lawyers, Steve Greenberg, pointed out that potential jurors might be leery of being in close proximity. Moving Kelly’s trial to the fall is almost guaranteed to delay his Chicago federal trial; before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that trial had already been postponed from late April to October 13.

Meanwhile, Kelly made yet another pitch for release because of COVID-19. Lawyers for Kelly, whose “emergency” request for home confinement over coronavirus concerns was shot down last week, said that conditions at federal jail in Chicago had worsened. His lawyers said that there are at least six detainees with confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses, and “there are likely already many more positive cases …” (The Federal Bureau of Prisons claims there are four positive cases among prisoners and ten among staffers where Kelly is being held.) Citing Bureau of Prisons data that some 500 inmates across the U.S. are COVID-19-positive, his lawyers argued “that Mr. Kelly will be infected with this deadly disease, is now unfortunately an absolute probability.” Federal prosecutors have to respond to Kelly’s request by 12 p.m. Friday.