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Funds Seized from R. Kelly’s ‘Substantial’ Inmate Trust Account Can Go to His Victims, Judge Rules

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois state courtroom in a 2019 file photo. (Image via Antonio Perez/pool via Getty Images.)

R. Kelly appears in an Illinois state courtroom in a 2019 file photo. (Image via Antonio Perez/pool via Getty Images.)

A federal judge issued an order on Friday authorizing the “substantial” money found in disgraced singer R. Kelly’s inmate trust account to go to his victims.

A little more than a month ago, prosecutors filed a motion to transfer the $27,828.24 found in the multi-platinum singer and convicted sex predator’s inmate trust account into an interest bearing account, until the amount and applicability of a restitution judgment could be determined. The money has remained frozen since prosecutors first made their application, leaving Kelly with a $500 balance for his use in MCC-Chicago, where he is currently serving his 30-year sentence.

A federal jury convicted him of racketeering and sex trafficking, which prosecutors said was enabled by a coterie of Kelly’s business managers, security guards and bouncers, runners, lawyers, accountants, and assistants. Kelly is currently incarcerated in Illinois because of his separate federal trial in that state on child pornography charges.

The government called seizure of his prison funds necessary because Kelly had not paid a dime of the financial penalties that U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed in addition to his prison time: a $100,000 fine, a $900 special assessment, and $40,000 assessment under the Justice for Trafficking Victims Act.

“There is no dispute that these amounts are outstanding; nor is there any dispute that the funds in the defendant’s trust account, totaling $28,328.24, constitute ‘substantial resources’ within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 3664(n),” Donnelly’s order states. “Thus, the government’s request is authorized by section 3664(n)’s plain terms, which ‘affirmatively mandate[] that an incarcerated defendant apply ‘substantial resources’ to any fine that is ‘still owed’ — that is, to any portion of the total fine that has yet to be satisfied.”

Kelly opposed the transfer of money, which he claims the Bureau of Prisons wrongly “confiscated.”

Judge Donnelly rejected that argument in a nine-page memorandum decision and order.

“In granting the government’s request because the defendant has not paid the fines, I am also mindful of victims’ rights ‘to full and timely restitution,’ 18 U.S.C. § 3771(a)(6), as well as Congress’s directive that restitution obligations must be satisfied before other court-ordered fines,” Donnelly wrote. “Furthermore, the [Mandatory Victim Restitution Act] provides that ‘[a] restitution order ‘may be enforced by the United States in the manner provided for’ in 18 U.S.C. §§ 3571-3574, and §§ 3611–3615 or ‘by all other available and reasonable means.'”

Kelly’s legal team sought to sanction the government for the action, but the judge found that request meritless.

“The defendant’s remaining claims — that the BOP unlawfully ‘encumbered Mr. Kelly’s funds’ and that the BOP and the government should be sanctioned — have no merit,” the ruling states. “The BOP acted properly and in accordance with its policies when it placed the defendant’s funds ‘in hold until this Court could adjudicate the pending motion.'”

A hearing to determine how much Kelly owes in restitution has been scheduled for Sept. 28, 2022.

“We will appeal,” Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean said in a statement to Law&Crime.

Read the ruling here:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."