Skip to main content

Fallen Star R. Kelly’s COVID-19 Diagnosis Throws a Wrench into Planned Appeal of Sex Trafficking and RICO Convictions

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois state courtroom in a 2019 file photo.

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois courtroom in a 2019 file photo.

R&B singer R. Kelly is seeking additional time to file post-conviction motions and to ready an appeal, his attorney revealed in a letter filed Tuesday morning.

The singer, whose legal name in court documents is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was convicted last year of using employees and others to coerce victims into sexual acts. A jury convicted R. Kelly of all nine charges prosecutors alleged in the Eastern District of New York. Those charges included one count of racketeering and eight counts of Mann Act violations. However, the jury did not agree that prosecutors proved certain instances of abuse beyond a reasonable doubt, a special verdict form attests. Those failures did not affect the overall verdict. Kelly is scheduled for sentencing in the Eastern District of New York on May 4, 2022. He also faces separate trials in other jurisdictions, notably in Illinois.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean is handling R. Kelly’s post-conviction paperwork; a Tuesday letter notes that the singer decided to “part[] ways with his trial time.” Bonjean is seeking a two-week extension for Kelly’s post-trial motions and is eyeing a Feb. 17, 2022 deadline for such matters to be filed. She noted that federal prosecutors have not objected to the delay.

“Although undersigned counsel has been working diligently to complete Mr. Kelly’s post-trial motions,” Bonjean wrote, “several issues have arisen that demand a short extension.”

“First, the MDC [Metropolitan Detention Center] indefinitely suspended all jail visits nearly a month ago, preventing undersigned counsel from meeting with Mr. Kelly to review the proposed pleadings,” she continued.  “To complicate matters, Mr. Kelly was advised that he contracted COVID which interfered with his ability to speak with counsel by telephone. Undersigned counsel has arranged several zoom meetings with Mr. Kelly over the next two weeks, but the first meeting could not be confirmed until February 3, 2022.”

Bonjean wrote that it was “vitally important that Mr. Kelly meaningfully participate in his post-trial defense” and said additional time was necessary to effectuate his participation. Bonjean noted that much of the timetable remains contingent on the MDC’s mitigation efforts, but she said she “is confident that she can accomplish necessary discussions with Mr. Kelly via upcoming scheduled zoom visits.”

The attorney also noted that Kelly’s decision to dispatch his trial team “required serious consideration” and discussions among all parties.  Those conversations also led to certain delays; Bonjean said she “prefer[red] to file post-trial motions” only after R. Kelly’s trial counsel had formally withdrawn — and that process is ongoing.

The letter also notes that “Mr. Kelly’s COVID status has already been publicly disclosed.”

Read the letter below:

[image via Antonio Perez/Pool via Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.