Chicago and Brooklyn want first crack at trying R. Kelly, one of the disgraced R&B singer’s defense lawyers revealed in court Friday.
“They’ve all told me they’re going first,” the lawyer answered when asked by a judge which of three prosecutorial jurisdictions will get first crack at the accused sex trafficker.
Kelly faces charges in federal courts in Brooklyn and Chicago plus state charges out of Cook County, Illinois, which encompasses Chicago.
The fight over which prosecutors will try the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer first was revealed in Brooklyn federal court, after his Friday morning guilty plea to his local charges of racketeering and transporting women and girls for sex.
As his two girlfriends and alleged sex slaves looked on from the audience, Judge Ann Donnelly asked one of the three Kelly defense lawyers in the courtroom, “Have you determined which case is going first?”
The lawyer, Steve Greenberg, answered that the jurisdictions have “all” indicated they will get first dibs on a trial.
A glum-looking Kelly, who was uncuffed for the proceeding, was then led back out of court, with one federal marshal walking ahead of him and another behind him.
Kelly cast one forlorn look over his right shoulder at girlfriends Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, who exchanged sad smiles with him as he left the courtroom.
Illinois state prosecutors had been the first to arrest Kelly, charging him in February with aggravated criminal sexual abuse.It’s unclear how the order of the trials will be determined.
But federal cases typically take precedence over state cases.
In Chicago, the feds have him up on charges of child pornography, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity and obstruction of justice.
The Chicago federal sex crime charges were lodged on the evening of July 11; Brooklyn feds filed their own charges the following morning.
In Brooklyn federal, he is facing a five-count indictment charging him with racketeering, sexual exploitation of children, and transporting women and girls across state lines for sex.
“The state prosecutors (in Chicago) say they’re going ahead with their case, and the federal prosecutors (in Chicago and Brooklyn) said they’re going ahead with their case,” Greenberg said after court.
“I don’t know, I’ve never had this situation before,” he said when asked how it’s determined who gets the case first.
“I think all the prosecutors want to be the one who gets first shot. I don’t care which one it is. We’ll deal with is as it comes,” Greenberg added.
“There are often turf battles between various US attorneys’ offices in prosecuting high-profile, i.e. desirable, cases,” noted attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who repped “El Chapo” Guzman.
El Chapo was indicted in multiple district courts but prosecuted first in Brookyn federal, also known as the Eastern District of New York.
“So I wouldn’t be surprised if such a thing exists here,” Lichtman said. “It usually goes to the office that is more powerful and has more resources, and in this case I suspect that’s the Eastern District of New York.”
Kelly’s next court dates are Aug. 15 in Chicago and Oct. 2 in Brooklyn.
Donnelly will preside over any Brooklyn trial of the singer; her previous courtroom claim to fame came in January 2017, when she issued an emergency order that blocked the immediate deportations of travelers detained at airports around the country due to President Trump’s sudden “Muslim ban” executive order.