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R. Kelly Pleads Not Guilty to Herpes-Exposure Allegations

Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Thursday to his new Brooklyn federal-court indictment, which includes allegations that he knowingly exposed two people to herpes during sex. Kelly’s arraignment took place via telephone conference, as coronavirus concerns have prompted many court proceedings across the U.S. to be held remotely. Kelly called into the proceeding from the Chicago federal jail where he is presently detained. (He also faces federal and state charges in Illinois.) Shortly after Kelly joined the call, Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak said, “I take it, sir, you do understand English,” to which he replied, “Yes, ma’am.” One of Kelly’s lawyers said they “enter a plea of not guilty to all of the charges.” One member of Kelly’s legal team also said the jail has “an additional new medical report” relating to him, and that they hope to get a copy.

The nine-count indictment for alleged racketeering and sexual abuse, filed on March 12, said one of the people exposed to herpes was a minor female, and the other was an adult female. Kelly allegedly “engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse” with these two accusers, who are referred to as Jane Doe #5 and Jane Doe #6 in court papers. Kelly allegedly did so “without first informing” them “that he had contracted herpes and obtaining her consent to sexual intercourse in these circumstances …” The adult partner, Jane Doe #6, “ultimately learned that she had contracted herpes during the course of her relationship with the defendant,” according to court papers filed on March 23. Kelly was arrested on federal racketeering and sex-abuse charges in July and has since been jailed. His New York trial, which was delayed due to COVID-19, is scheduled for September.

Update, May 1, 2020: R. Kelly asked for bail yet again on Friday because of coronavirus concerns. This time, his lawyers claimed that he was “likely diabetic.” “It is a fact that people who are diabetic are at a much higher risk for serious complications should they be infected with Covid 19,” wrote Steve Greenberg, one of Kelly’s attorneys, in a letter to Judge Ann M. Donnelly. On Thursday, Kelly told his lawyers that he had just received results from medical tests conducted in March; those tests revealed that he was just below the threshold for diabetes, Greenberg claimed. “He also suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol issues,” Greenberg said in his letter Friday. “In the current environment they are not taking any medical action to mitigate any of these conditions. They let a month pass before sharing the results. It only makes sense that given the absence of any knowledge on his part, or any mitigation, that he is likely now diabetic.” On April 21, Donnelly denied Kelly’s request for bail. Donnelly had also denied the request for bail they made one week prior.

Update, May 5, 2020: Prosecutors fought R. Kelly’s diabetes-related bail application in new court papers and revealed that jail health officials told the rapper to avoid eating “simple carbs such as chips.” Kelly allegedly complained about the food in lockup, according to the court filing. The detail on Kelly’s junk-food consumption was part of prosecutors’ argument that there was in fact adequate medical care in jail, in order to undermine Kelly’s claims that poor health qualified him for bail. During an April 29 medical appointment, the nurse practitioner treating Kelly discussed “ways to reduce cholesterol including smaller portions, especially simple carbs such as chips, sweets from commissary and to increase activity” with him. Kelly was also counseled “regarding exercises” he could do despite being restricted to his cell during the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as “ways to calm [the defendant’s] mind, [and] breathing exercises …” During a May 1 doctor’s appointment, Kelly was also told to exercise regularly in his room, and lose weight. Kelly allegedly complained that he “can’t exercise in the small room” and “can’t have the diet he needs or wants.” This doctor also told Kelly “to avoid sweets & fatty food” and said he would give Kelly a “calorie count chart,” prosecutors said.

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R. Kelly Pleads Not Guilty to Herpes-Exposure Allegations