R. Kelly seeks acquittal or new trial in racketeering and sex trafficking case

The disgraced singer also cut ties with two his Chicago-based attorneys

R. Kelly has filed a motion to be acquitted on – or at least be granted a new trial for – his September 2021 conviction for racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child and kidnapping.

According to documents sighted by Rolling Stone, Kelly and his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, allege that the R&B singer (real name Robert Sylvester Kelly) was denied his Sixth Amendment rights (which state that all criminal defendants are entitled to “a speedy and public trial” by “an impartial jury”).

It’s claimed that Kelly was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel in examining potential jurors, and that his assigned counsel neglected to challenge unqualified jurors. It’s also alleged that some of the jurors were aware of prior accusations made against Kelly (specifically those pertaining to his alleged sexual assault of minors) and had viewed the 2019 docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, meaning the jury “was neither fair nor impartial”.

According to Rolling Stone, the documents also claim that Kelly’s former counsel was biased, as it’s alleged that “one of his trial attorneys was simultaneously representing the defendant of a prosecutor’s star witness”, referred to as Jane. The court had reportedly confirmed that said attorney had a professional relationship with Jane while representing Kelly, though at the time, Kelly opted to waive the conflict of interest.

In the motion filed last Thursday (February 17), Kelly and Bonjean assert that the singer was prejudiced by the conflict – which they’ve now said was “unwaivable” – and therefore makes him entitled to a new trial.

A separate motion filed by Bonjean has the lawyer arguing for a judgment of acquittal; she reportedly states that Kelly’s conviction on one count of racketeering, as well as eight counts of violating the Mann Act (which criminalises the transportation of any woman or girl across state lines for “immoral” purposes, such as illegal sexual activity) had not been adequately proven.

Bonjean reportedly alleged that the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) prosecution against Kelly was unjustified, as it sought to punish Kelly for alleged crimes that “could no longer be prosecuted by state and local agencies” as opposed to “criminal activity of an enterprise”.

The motion states: “The government’s belated interest in protecting Defendant’s alleged victims does not justify application of the RICO statute to alleged private, sexual misconduct of the Defendant (and only the Defendant), even if some of that conduct could have been timely prosecuted by local authorities long ago.”

Earlier last week, Kelly parted ways with his two Chicago-based attorneys, Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard, in a bid to have his cases in the city represented by Bonjean. There, he awaits trial for child pornography and obstruction charges. The trial was initially due to begin in April 2020, but has been repeatedly pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is currently set to face the US District Court on August 1.

Notable is Bonjean’s history: last June, she successfully fought to have Bill Cosby released from prison. The disgraced actor and comedian – who has been accused of sexual assault by more than 60 women – had his conviction overturned after serving three years of his three-to-10-year sentence.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Kelly – who is also facing other sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota, to which he has pleaded not guilty – tested positive for COVID-19 in his Brooklyn jail cell.

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.

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