Prosecutors in New York asked a federal judge Tuesday to bar indicted singer R. Kelly from keeping printed copies of sensitive evidence in his racketeering case, alleging he has a “history of obstruction and extensive harassment” of potential witnesses against him.
The motion filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn also said there was worry that fellow inmates at the Chicago federal jail where Kelly is being held might have the “motivation and means” to steal victim or witness information and disseminate it.
The five-page motion cites a litany of allegations against Kelly over the years, including a separate indictment filed in federal court in Chicago accusing him of conspiring with his manager and others to rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County.
It also includes a new allegation that Kelly directly aided an associate in a scheme in 2018 to convince an alleged victim in his criminal case to drop a lawsuit against the singer by threatening to reveal sexually explicit photographs of her and “publicly reveal her sexual history.”
On Oct. 26, 2018, the associate sent a text message to Kelly asking for “one more photo” of the alleged victim “with her phone number at the top” that he could include in a package he was sending to the woman’s lawyer in New York, according to the motion.
“Do you agree that she should really know her client???” the associate asked Kelly in the text, which ended with a winking emoji.
Kelly responded, “I;m going to get you more .…” according to the motion.
Donnell Russell, of Chicago, has been charged in New York with attempting to harass or intimidate a witness as part of that scheme. The motion does not state whether it was Russell who had the text exchange with Kelly.
“In light of the defendant’s history of obstructive conduct and the involvement of others, including strangers, in schemes to harass, intimidate and physically harm potential government witnesses, there is a significant risk that civilian and victim witnesses who may testify against the defendant may be subject to harassment or far worse,” prosecutors wrote in Tuesday’s motion.
Kelly’s attorneys have said they will object to the protective order, particularly any portion that would bar Kelly from keeping the evidence with him at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
The battle over evidence disclosure comes just two months before Kelly is set to go on trial before U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn.
Last week, Kelly’s lawyers accused prosecutors of “gamesmanship” for improperly withholding evidence, alleging it should have been turned over months ago. The delay in turning over “crucial” materials in the case will put the defense at a decided disadvantage, particularly given the difficulties of preparing for trial amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Kelly’s lawyers said.
Kelly, 54, is set to go on trial April 7 on charges alleging Kelly and his associates ran a criminal enterprise that recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact, then isolated and threatened them to keep them under control and prevent them from going to authorities.
Donnelly has set a pretrial conference for Feb. 17.
In addition to the New York case, Kelly is charged in federal court in Chicago with numerous sex abuse-related counts, including allegations he conspired with two former employees to rig his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County by paying off witnesses and victims to change their stories.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber has set a tentative trial date for that case for September.
He’s also facing felony criminal sexual abuse charges filed in Cook County in February 2019.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty in each case.