R. Kelly gets COVID-19 in NYC jail

R&B singer R. Kelly has tested positive for COVID-19 in a Brooklyn federal jail, according to his lawyer.

His lawyer is asking a federal judge for a two-week extension to work on an appeal because of the illness.  It is currently due on Thursday.

Kelly came down with the virus at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park.  He has been jailed there since before his trial on sex-trafficking charges.

In a letter to the judge, Jennifer Bonjean said that Kelly can not currently "meaningfully participate in his post-trial defense" because he is not allowed to participate in video visits while he has the virus.

She also says that the jail has indefinitely suspended all jail visits, preventing the defense team from meeting with him in person.

Bonjean asked for a delay until Feb. 17, 2022, and told the judge that prosecutors do not object to the delay.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly has not ruled on the request.

Kelly was convicted on Sept. 27 on racketeering conspiracy charges, alleging he used his music career to further a criminal enterprise. The jury found him guilty of 12 individual illegal acts, including sex with multiple underage girls as well as a 1994 scheme to bribe an Illinois public aid official to get a phony ID for 15-year-old singer Aaliyah so the two could get married.

He faces up to life in prison when he’s sentenced on May 4, 2022.  Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, also faces charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

Bonjean most recently helped win a release from prison for comedian Bill Cosby.

BACKGROUND: Kelly, Charges, and the Trial

What is R. Kelly known for?

You've probably heard "I Believe I Can Fly" at an inspirational moment or "Ignition (Remix)" at a college party. That's R. Kelly. The 54-year-old is an R&B superstar whose heyday was in the '90s and early 2000s when he racked up a slew of awards, including multiple Grammys.

Where is R. Kelly charged?

New York, Illinois, and Minnesota, all sex-related cases. The New York trial unfolded in a federal court in Downtown Brooklyn. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

What was this specific trial about?

This was a racketeering case. Prosecutors said R. Kelly physically, sexually, and psychologically dominated children — girls and boys — and women, often recording sex acts with minors, and using a cadre of loyalists to do his bidding and recruit victims. Kelly's lawyers pushed back, calling the accusers groupies who "were dying to be with him."

Could R. Kelly serve prison time?

The top count of racketeering carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He also faces charges under the Mann Act.

What is the Mann Act?

The Mann Act is a 1910 law that forbids transporting "any woman or girl" over state lines for "immoral" acts. 

How long has R. Kelly been in jail?

He's been held since July 2019, when federal indictments were announced in Chicago and New York. But he's only been in New York since June. His lawyer says he has gained a lot of weight and has run out of money while in jail. 

Who was on the jury?

Seven men, five women. The judge ordered their names and other details that could identify them withheld.

Was there anything unusual about the trial?

The judge barred reporters and the public from the courtroom and had to watch a video feed of the witnesses from an overflow room, where no phones or computers were allowed. The judge cited coronavirus concerns in decreeing the viewing accommodations but other recent trials in New York have permitted access to the courtroom.

What other legal problems has R. Kelly had?

He was acquitted in a 2008 child pornography case in Chicago. He's also been embroiled in many lawsuits.