R. Kelly on Tuesday was once again denied bail after making a coronavirus-based “emergency” request for home confinement. The judge presiding over his Brooklyn Federal Court racketeering and sexual-misconduct case was not swayed by Kelly’s health concerns, even though one detainee on his floor recently tested positive for COVID-19. Judge Ann M. Donnelly ruled that while it’s “undeniable” the situation had worsened at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, Kelly didn’t prove he’s “uniquely at risk for contracting severe illness from COVID-19.” Donnelly’s decision stems from the singer’s April 16 request for release because of COVID-19. His legal team argued that “Mr. Kelly will be infected with this deadly disease is now unfortunately an absolute probability.” Kelly’s lawyers had pitched home confinement one week prior, which Donnelly also denied.
Not surprisingly, federal prosecutors fought Kelly’s requests. In an April 17 court filing, they reiterated their position that Kelly presents a “flight risk and danger to the community,” contending that he has the money to escape. They also revealed that “in the first quarter of 2020 alone, [Kelly] received over $200,000 in royalty proceeds.” (Prosecutors didn’t go into specifics about the source of these royalties but one of Kelly’s lawyers, Steve Greenberg, told Vulture he thought that any royalties would come from his music catalogue.)
Prosecutors also point out that Kelly is accused in Chicago federal court of an “obstruction-of-justice conspiracy involving coercing, threatening, and bribing potential witnesses who could testify against him.” In Donnelly’s three-page ruling, she voiced these concerns. “The risks associated with the defendant’s release have not changed,” she wrote. “The risk that the defendant would try to obstruct justice or intimidate prospective witnesses has not dissipated, and poses a danger to the community.”
According to the Bureau of Prisons, 12 inmates and 16 staffers tested positive for COVID-19 at the Chicago federal jail where Kelly is detained. Court papers filed earlier this week confirmed that one detainee on Kelly’s floor tested positive for COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized. Kelly’s New York City trial is scheduled to start on September 29, though the ongoing outbreak could delay proceedings.
Since the outbreak hit, some judges in state and federal courts have shown willingness to release people from correctional facilities because of the coronavirus. Factors they consider are age, health, and whether they could pose a danger upon release. On April 1, a Manhattan federal judge granted Tekashi 6ix9ine’s request for “compassionate release” on home confinement. While the rapper was set to leave lockup around early August, he argued that his asthma made him particularly susceptible to coronavirus. Fyre Festival fraudster Billy McFarland also requested “compassionate release,” asking in an April 14 court filing to serve the rest of his six-year sentence on home confinement because of health concerns. A judge has yet to rule on McFarland’s request. And in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf green-lighted a temporary reprieve for at-risk and nonviolent inmates who were nearing their release dates, but state prison officials said Saturday that fallen comedian Bill Cosby is not eligible for early release because he’s a sex offender, USA Today reported.
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