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Federal judge rejects R. Kelly’s bid to dismiss Illinois child porn charges

Though he’s already been sentenced to 30 years behind bars in New York, the disgraced singer still faces federal sexual abuse and child porn charges in Chicago.

CHICAGO (CN) — A federal judge on Thursday denied former hitmaker and convicted sex offender R. Kelly's motion to dismiss most of the federal charges he faces in Illinois.

While Kelly, 55, was already sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal court in New York on Wednesday, the once-lauded R&B singer still faces 13 charges related to sexual abuse, child pornography, coercion, conspiracy and destruction of evidence in the Northern District of Illinois.

Kelly's motion to dismiss, filed in May by his lead attorney Jennifer Bonjean, asked Senior U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to toss all but a single conspiracy charge based on timeliness issues.

Federal prosecutors first indicted Kelly in Chicago federal court in 2019, but the sexual abuse and reception of child pornography that they accuse him of all took place between the late 90s and early aughts. Accordingly, Bonjean argued, the feds waited too long to prosecute.

"In its recently discovered enthusiasm to prosecute Mr. Kelly, the government reaches back a quarter century to bring charges of sexual abuse and receiving child pornography that have been long time-barred," Bonjean wrote in the dismissal motion. "Count one through four of the indictment alleges child exploitation of Minor 1 that occurred between 1998 and 1999. ...the government had until September 2009 in which to charge Defendant with... offenses arising from this conduct. Because the statute of limitations ran more than a decade ago, this Court should dismiss counts one through four of the indictment."

Leinenweber, a Ronald Reagan appointee, disagreed with this assessment in Thursday's ruling. He pointed out that the federal statute of limitations for charges of sexual abusing a minor was amended both in 2003 and 2006, and now extends to "the life of the child or ten years after the offense, whichever is longer." While admitting there is some grey area as to whether the 1994 or 2006 version of the statute should be applied - the former meaning that many of the charges would have expired a decade or more ago - Leinenweber ultimately concluded that the 2006 version was more appropriate.

The judge's reasoning was that when the statute was amended in 2006, the original statute of limitations on the charges Kelly now faces had not yet expired.

"Applying the current version of [the statute] does not impair any of the Defendants’ rights because the statute was amended before the original limitations period expired. This Court will not disturb well-settled law to create new statutory rights where none currently exist," Leinenweber wrote.

In a separate motion also filed in May, Bonjean requested that Kelly's case be severed from that of his co-defendant Derrel McDavid. The feds accused McDavid of helping Kelly cover up his sex tapes with minors by paying off alleged victims, witnesses and even press – sometimes as much as $250,000. He also allegedly helped Kelly pressure victims and their families to give false statements to police and a 2002 Cook County grand jury.

Bonjean argued that trying the men together would endanger both of their Fifth Amendment rights. On several of the charges they share, she said, they might give testimony on the other that could also incriminate themselves. She further claimed that one McDavid's attorneys, Vadim Glozman, may have a conflict of interest in the case.

Glozman worked as an associate for one of Kelly's prior attorneys, the now-deceased Ed Genson, between 2012 and 2018. Kelly and Genson had a close attorney-client relationship during that period, and Bonjean argued this would prejudice Glozman in the case at hand.

"Because Glozman arguably owes a duty of loyalty to Kelly because he was a member of the firm that represented Kelly, he is in a conflicted position. This potential conflict may be an actual conflict if Glozman possesses privileged information that he may or can use to the benefit of his client or to the detriment of Mr. Kelly at a joint trial," Bonjean argued.

Leinenweber denied this motion Thursday as well. He found that Bonjean's arguments, particularly regarding Glozman's alleged conflict of interest, were too vague and were supported by too little evidence to be persuasive.

"All Kelly offers is that he has a 'distinct memory of [Glozman’s] name as someone who worked with Mr. Genson.' Kelly has not presented sufficient information to show that Glozman has an actual conflict of interest," Leinenweber wrote. "The Court will not sever McDavid and Kelly’s trials."

Leinenweber's dismissal likely kills Kelly's last chance to avoid a jury trial in Chicago. The actual trial date has been pushed back several times over the course of the last two years. It was initially set to start April 27, 2020, before being pushed back to Oct. 13, then Sep. 13, 2021, then Aug. 1, 2022.

On June 21, the trial was pushed back again and is now set to begin on Aug. 15.

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