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R. Kelly’s Bid for Coronavirus Release Is Denied Again

R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot
TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutter

A federal judge on Tuesday again denied R. Kelly’s bid for release, despite a worsening coronavirus outbreak at the Chicago jail where he is being held.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, who had denied Kelly’s first request for release on April 7, ruled that he remains a flight risk. She also noted the possibility that he could seek to coerce or intimidate witnesses.

“The risks associated with the defendant’s release have not changed,” she wrote.

Kelly is being held at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center, and is awaiting trial on numerous charges — including sexual misconduct charges and racketeering — in three states.

When Kelly’s attorneys first asked for his release on March 26, no inmates at the federal facility had yet tested positive for COVID-19. That has since changed. Kelly’s attorneys renewed the request on April 16, noting that six inmates had been diagnosed with the disease.

This week, the defense informed the judge that an inmate on the same floor as Kelly had tested positive. Kelly’s attorneys have argued that his — 53 — and medical history make him vulnerable to the disease. They have also complained that the lockdown measures at the facility have made it nearly impossible to work with Kelly to prepare for trial.

Kelly’s attorneys have asked that he be released with a GPS tracking device, and said he that he would stay at a nearby apartment complex. The defense has argued that Kelly showed up to every court date on his 2002 case in state court in Illinois.

But in her ruling on Tuesday, Donnelly noted that he currently faces more serious charges.

“Even aside from the risk of flight, the risk that the defendant would try to obstruct justice or intimidate prospective witnesses has not dissipated, and poses a danger to the community,” she wrote.

Donnelly conceded that conditions have worsened at the facility, but also said, “As the defendant recognizes, the entire BOP population cannot be released because of COVID-19.”