R Kelly ‘s request to be let out of prison over fears of the coronavirus pandemic has been denied by a judge.
The singer’s legal team had filed a motion to have him released from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he’s being held without bail as he awaits trial for several sex crime charges, which he denies.
But today, his request was denied by United States District Judge Hon Ann M Donnelly.
The legal team for R Kelly, 53, had claimed he was in the high-risk category of people most susceptible to COVID-19 because of his age and existing health issues.
The lawyers also claimed that hand sanitiser and soap were hard to come by in jail and that most prisoners are kept in small cells with at least one other inmate, making it impossible to social-distance from each other.
But the judge didn’t agree.
She wrote in her judgement: “While I am sympathetic to the defendant’s understandable anxiety about COVID-19, he has not established compelling reasons warranting his release.
“At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the MCC in Chicago.”
She also said the prison had taken measures to protect inmate and staff, including suspending all legal and social visits, making soap available to inmates and screening and testing all those who have access to the prison.
The judge also said she felt R Kelly had not demonstrated that he is in the high-risk category defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
She added: “The defendant is fifty-three years old, twelve years younger than the cohort of ‘older adults’ defined by the CDC as at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
“Although the defendant has had surgery during his incarceration, he does not explain how his surgical history places him at a higher risk of severe illness.
“Moreover, officials in Chicago have advised the government that doctors have completed all treatment for the defendant’s recent operation.”
She also said that R Kelly is still able to contact his attorneys by phone and email during the crisis, and that in fact, they now have extra time to prepare for the trial, as it is unlikely it will proceed as scheduled on July 7.
The judge also said R Kelly is in custody because of “the risk that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses”.
She concluded: “Accordingly, the defendant’s motion for a bail hearing and an order granting temporary release is denied.”
R Kelly, most famous for his hit I Believe I Can Fly, was scheduled to face trial in New York in July and in Chicago in October.
He denies all of the allegations brought against him.