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R. Kelly Asks Again to Be Released From Jail, Citing Coronavirus Cases

R&B singer R. Kelly leaves court
TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstoc

R. Kelly’s lawyers on Thursday renewed their request for him to be released, after six inmates at the jail where he is being held tested positive for COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly denied Kelly’s first request last week, saying he posed a flight risk and noting the concern that he would seek to intimidate witnesses.

Kelly is being held at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is awaiting trial on sexual misconduct, racketeering and other charges. At the time of his first request, no inmates at the facility had tested positive for the disease.

But on Wednesday, Bureau of Prisons officials disclosed that six inmates have tested positive, as well as seven staff members who have been in contact with inmates. In the renewed request, Kelly’s attorney said that he and the other inmates are experiencing “tremendous stress and anxiety” due to the situation.

“Inmates are reportedly banging on doors, walls, and windows begging for help,” wrote attorney Michael I. Leonard. “The only thing the MCC has done is lock things down, making conditions feel more like solitary confinement; and possibly, because of the nature of this virus, locking in healthy inmates with those who already have the virus but who may not yet be symptomatic.”

Leonard also cited Bureau of Prisons data indicating that nationwide, 500 inmates have tested positive and there have been 17 deaths at BOP facilities.

“Based on all of the above, that Mr. Kelly will be infected with this deadly disease, is now unfortunately an absolute probability,” Leonard wrote.

He also argued that if Kelly were to be released to an apartment in Chicago, he would be on GPS monitoring and it would be nearly impossible for him to flee.

Kelly “would be perhaps the most obvious and recognizable person on the streets of Chicago, or anywhere else in the country, in light of the
severe stay-at-home restrictions that are and will continue to be in place and enforced,” his attorney wrote.

Prosecutors opposed Kelly’s first request for release, saying he was not in a high-risk category and that the prison system had taken steps to mitigate the spread of the disease, such as providing additional free soap to inmates.