The hearing, which follows the singer being hit Friday with a total of 18 counts of serious sexual misconduct and other charges in Chicago and New York, was to determine whether Kelly should be released from custody the charges play out. Prosecutors argued that he should not be released.
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“This risk of obstruction is real. This risk is ongoing. This risk is heightened by the defendant’s fame and power,” one assistant U.S. attorney told the judge, Harry Leinenweber, at Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago. The singer “has a unique ability to influence and intimidate witnesses and victims, and that continues to this day.”
If found guilty, Kelly, 52, could receive a minimum of 15 years behind bars and a maximum sentence of 195 years in prison based on the Chicago charges alone. He has been incarcerated in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center since agents arrested him near his home in Trump Tower early Thursday evening.
Prosecutors argued Tuesday that home confinement and electronic monitoring would not be sufficient, given the charges against the singer.
“The defendant can entice girls to his own doorstep, he doesn’t have to leave his home to do that,” one told the judge.
Kelly’s attorney Steven Greenberg took a deceptively lighthearted tone, arguing that the singer is not a flight risk because, “Unlike his most famous song, ‘I Believe I Can Fly,’ Mr. Kelly doesn’t like to fly.” Greenberg added more seriously, “How could he flee? He has not money. They money’s in concerts and he doesn’t play concerts these days,” referring to the cancellation of all nearly scheduled Kelly concerts over the past couple of years, many due to protests.
“There’s no evidence that he’s a risk to minors at all at this point,” Greenberg continued, adding, “The man’s entitled to be held in a humane situation. Mr. Kelly is a difficult person to have [at the facility] because of other prisoners … because of his notoriety.”
Prosecutors responded, “Mr. Kelly was the leader of that conspiracy to obstruct justice. Whatever his co-defendants did in furtherance of that obstruction of justice, they did on his behalf.” The prosecutor added that Greenberg “never once mentioned Mr. Kelly’s sexual interest in middle school kids.”
Kelly was ordered held without bond. The singer entered a not-guilty plea.
While Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct for many years — and was acquitted of child-pornography charges in 2008 — the new charges are federal, and “are considerably more serious than the original state court charges [of which he was acquitted in 2008]. “Anyone charged with these crimes is facing considerably more prison time than he otherwise would have,” attorney Priya Sopori, a partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP in Los Angeles, explained to Variety.
“Earlier, he was looking at possession of child pornography under state jurisdiction,” she explains. “Now, he’s looking at production of child pornography, which is a federal crime in federal court, and there’s a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison for that crime. So if he’s found guilty of production of child pornography, no judge will have discretion to send him to prison for fewer than 15 years — remember, in federal court, defendants end up serving a very large percentage of their time because there is no early-parole system.”