R. Kelly’s Federal Trial in Chicago Starts Aug. 1 After Judge Denies Request to Delay

In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

A federal judge has denied a request to delay R&B singer R. Kelly’s upcoming sex abuse trial in Chicago during a raucous teleconference hearing Tuesday morning.

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U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected a motion from Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean seeking to delay the scheduled Aug. 1 start of his Chicago trial by 90 days as she continues working through what she described as hundreds of thousands of pages of additional evidence materials in the case.

“It’s too much to ask,” Bonjean said. “I mean there’s so much at stake. It’s unfortunate I didn’t come into the case earlier, I would have been ready Aug. 1, but I can only do what I can do.”

More than 200 participants joined the public teleconference call Tuesday morning, which devolved into a yelling match between several people after Leinenweber denied Bonjean’s motion.

The hearing was repeatedly interrupted by listeners, many of whom sounded supportive of the superstar singer.

“Oh my God, seriously, they can’t wait three more months?” one person asked after the judge’s ruling. “All y’all are goofy,” another shouted repeatedly.

Kelly was initially charged in a 13-count indictment in 2019 that alleged he sexually abused five separate minors and recorded some of those acts on multiple videos. A superseding indictment filed the following year added a sixth alleged victim.

Two former employees of the singer’s music business, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, were also charged in this case along with Kelly for allegedly conspiring to conceal evidence to obstruct law enforcement during the investigation that preceded Kelly’s 2008 child porn trial in Cook County.

Kelly was acquitted in that case.

A New York jury found Kelly guilty on nine counts, including racketeering, during another federal trial last year. Bonjean has since tried unsuccessfully to delay the sentencing hearing in that case until after his Chicago trial.

Federal prosecutors objected to the delay in the Chicago case Tuesday, as did McDavid’s attorney Beau Brindley.

“At this point in time, Mr. McDavid deserves his day in court,” he said during the hearing. “We have asked to go to trial, we are ready to go to trial.”

Brindley argued that the discovery materials are “not so voluminous that they are hard to digest.” But Bonjean noted she is relatively new to the case — Kelly previously dismissed his Chicago-based attorneys and a second legal team that represented him during his New York trial — and has been working to catch up on a case that involves allegations spanning two decades.

“Counsel had hoped that she would be ready for trial on August 1, 2022, but the case is far more complex that (sic) she anticipated,” Bonjean wrote in her motion. “The discovery is extensive and undersigned counsel cannot be forced to trial without having the opportunity to review the material in depth and appropriately investigate the case.”

Bonjean also noted that Kelly and his co-defendants could present defense theories that are “antagonistic” toward one another and may eventually move to sever their cases.

“I would point out,” she said Tuesday, “that it’s my client who is looking down the barrel of a life sentence, not Mr. McDavid.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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