Robert Sylvester Kelly (professionally known as R. Kelly) is dealing with a shakeup on his legal team. Attorneys Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard asked a federal judge to be withdrawn from the sex trafficking case in New York.
“Our reasons for withdrawal are significant and it is impossible, in our belief, for us to be able to continue to properly represent Mr. Kelly under the current circumstances,” read a letter to Judge Ann M. Donnelly written by Greenberg.
Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard apparently clashed with R. Kelly’s other lawyers. Attorneys Thomas A. Farinella and Nicole Blank Becker claim Kelly fired their colleagues prior to their letter to the judge being filed.
“We refused to try a case with lawyers who don’t have the appropriate level of experience and skill because that is not in the client’s best interest. It is a shame that lawyers can’t suppress their own egos or self-interest and do or act in the client’s best interest,” Greenberg and Leonard told Newsweek.
Kelly’s is scheduled to appear in court on August 9 in New York City. He was charged with racketeering predicated on criminal conduct including sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor, and Mann Act violations.
“As alleged, R. Kelly, together with employees and members of his entourage, engaged in a racketeering enterprise that preyed upon women and girls who attended his concerts so that the victims could be available to engage in illegal sexual activity with him at a moment’s notice,” stated Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in 2019.
Donoghue added, “Today that comes to an end. This indictment makes clear that fame and power will not shield anyone from prosecution, particularly predators who victimize vulnerable members of our communities for their own sexual gratification.”
The 54-year-old singer is also expected to stand trial in the Northern District of Illinois on separate federal child pornography and obstruction charges. Steve Greenberg has told reporters he plans to ask to be removed from that case as well.
“This indictment demonstrates our office’s commitment to holding individuals such as Kelly accountable for criminal sexual abuse of minors, protecting the victims of such crimes, and punishing those who obstruct law enforcement investigations,” said United States Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. following Kelly’s 2019 arrest in Chicago.
R. Kelly has pled not guilty to all counts. If convicted in New York, Kelly faces up to 20 years in prison for the racketeering and Mann Act Coercion and Enticement counts, respectively, as well as up to 10 years in prison for each of the Mann Act Transportation counts.