Federal prosecutors are pushing back hard against R. Kelly’s claim that sentencing for his sex trafficking conviction in New York, now set for May 4, should be postponed until after his upcoming federal trial on separate charges in Illinois.
Kelly’s new lawyer is seeking the delay with the argument Kelly deserves a chance to work with a sentencing mitigation expert without fear “his words might be used against him in some manner” at his next trial, set to start Aug. 1. The lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, says Kelly has a Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself.
In a letter to the court on Monday obtained by Rolling Stone, prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York blasted Kelly’s request for more time, saying it would come at the expense of victims. They also offered a solution to his concern.
“As proven at trial, the defendant engaged in wide-ranging and extensive criminal conduct, involving multiple victims, with impunity for decades. His victims have waited years to see the defendant held to account and sentenced for his crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth A. Geddes, Nadia I. Shihata, and Maria Cruz Melendez wrote in the letter.
“Moreover, in reliance on the date set by the court in September 2021, many victims have cleared their schedules to travel from other states to New York to attend and be heard at the May 4, 2022 sentencing hearing.”
The prosecutors further argued that it “strains credulity” to claim that after Kelly “has essentially challenged every aspect of his conviction,” he might all of a sudden “say anything to a potential mitigation expert that would incriminate him in the [Northern District of Illinois] matter.” But either way, the court could address his “speculative concern” by allowing the defense to file all or part of any potential mitigation report under seal.
“The undersigned Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who constitute a separate prosecution team from those prosecuting the NDIL case, will not share any such mitigation report with anyone involved in the NDIL prosecution and, to the extent there is any concern in this regard, would welcome a court order further prohibiting any such disclosure,” they wrote. “Such a procedure would entirely eliminate any risk that the defendant’s ‘words might be used against him in some manner.’”
The judge did not immediately rule on the matter.
Kelly, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking last September after a jury in federal court in Brooklyn found that he had sex with underage girls and bribed a state employee to create a phony ID card so he could marry the 15-year-old singer Aaliyah because he believed she was pregnant and thought the marriage would save him from jail.
The disgraced musician faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison for the conviction. He has filed an appeal.
Kelly’s upcoming trial in Chicago involves a separate 13-count federal indictment that alleges sex crimes, child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice.