By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday delayed R. Kelly’s racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery trial in Brooklyn, New York to July 7, so it would not conflict with the singer’s upcoming trial in a separate Chicago case.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn federal court said the scheduled April 27 trial date in Chicago made the May 18 target to begin the Brooklyn trial “somewhat unrealistic.”
Kelly, who federal authorities have detained in Chicago, attended the Brooklyn hearing by video conference, wearing an orange, V-neck short-sleeve shirt over a white T-shirt.
His lawyer Douglas Anton supported the delay, citing “voluminous” evidence to review and that Kelly’s defense lawyers “don’t even know who two of the alleged victims are.”
Questionnaires will be given to about 400 to 500 prospective jurors in May, from whom lawyers hope to find 200 to question further in July.
Known for such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” Kelly, 53, has faced sexual abuse allegations dating back more than two decades, including accounts from some accusers in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
He has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges in several cases filed in New York, Illinois, and Minnesota last year.
The Brooklyn prosecutors have accused Kelly of running a criminal scheme in which women and underage girls were recruited to have sexual activity with him.
They also charged Kelly with bribing an Illinois official in August 1994 to obtain a fake identification for the singer Aaliyah so they could get married.
Kelly was then 27 and Aaliyah was 15, but according to published reports their marriage license listed Aaliyah’s age as 18. The marriage was annulled in 1995. Aaliyah died at age 22 in a 2001 plane crash in the Bahamas.
Prosecutors in the Chicago case charged Kelly last July with engaging in sex acts with five minors, recording some of his alleged abuse on video, and using threats to keep victims quiet.
Kelly was also charged last February by Illinois state prosecutors with aggravated sexual abuse, and last August by Minnesota state prosecutors with soliciting sex from a minor.
In 2008, Kelly was acquitted at trial on state child pornography charges in Illinois.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)