R. Kelly will remain behind bars during the coronavirus outbreak, with a federal judge ruling on Tuesday that the accused singer will not be able to go free due to fears of contracting COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus.
As the Associated Press (via Fox 6 Now) reported, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of Brooklyn ruled that the singer, who was accused on several counts of sexual assault, is a danger to the community and must remain behind bars until his trial. Kelly has been locked up since last year after being hit with a string of federal charges.
“The defendant is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses,” Donnelly wrote in denying Kelly’s bid for a release while he awaits trial. “The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.”
Kelly is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where three staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. He had reportedly been held in protective custody on federal charges of child pornography, obstruction of justice, and racketeering.
As the Associated Press noted, federal authorities overseeing lockup facilities have taken steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, though experts have said that jails could be susceptible to outbreaks. According to ABC News, many judges across the country have moved to ease crowding in facilities by releasing prisoners close to the completion of their sentences and those convicted of low-level offenses.
Lawyers representing Kelly had requested last month that he be allowed to stay with a girlfriend while awaiting trial, the New York Post’s Page Six reported. The entertainer’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, asked a judge for release because the 53-year-old could be at an increased risk for complications if he were to contract COVID-19, due to his age and recent surgery to repair a hernia.
Greenberg noted at the time that some inmates at the Chicago facility were in quarantine with flu-like symptoms, though federal officials have said that no inmates at the facility have tested positive for coronavirus.
“Requiring people to reside in a custodial jail setting is tantamount to making them drink poison,” Kelly’s lawyer wrote in the initial request.
Kelly faces charges across three states — Illinois, Minnesota, and New York — on a range of sexual misconduct charges, including sexual assault and child pornography. The singer has maintained his innocence and has said he plans to fight the charges.