Illinois Judge Allows Attorneys to Exit R Kelly Civil Case

R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Sept. 17, 2019. (Antonio Perez/ via AP Pool, File)

CHICAGO (CN) – Embattled singer R. Kelly’s defense in a civil sexual assault case showed further signs of falling apart Tuesday, with the judge giving the go-ahead for his attorneys to withdraw.

All three of Kelly’s lawyers – Zaid Abdallah, Shady Yassin and Raed Shalabi – filed their motion to withdraw from the case in Cook County Circuit Court last week.

Judge Moira S. Johnson granted it immediately at a brief hearing Tuesday.

Losing his attorneys is not the first hiccup in the singer’s fight against the case filed last year, in which plaintiff Heather Williams claims he sexually abused her as a teen. Echoing stories from other alleged victims, Williams says she met the singer in 1998 in Chicago when she was 16, and was lured to his studio with promises of appearing in a music video.

Judge Johnson initially entered a default judgment when Kelly failed to respond to the complaint, but it was vacated after his attorneys told her he didn’t know he had been served because he couldn’t read the papers he received.

The judge also denied a motion to dismiss the case under the statute of limitations, agreeing with Williams’ attorney, Jeffrey Deutschman of Deutschman & Skafish, that as a minor at the time she did not necessarily understand that she had been injured because of her sexual contact with Kelly.

Kelly finally settled on pleading the Fifth. Abdallah said at a hearing last November that “because of the criminal ramifications,” his now-former client would need to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Abdallah said in court Tuesday that his colleague Yassin had hand-delivered their withdrawal notice to Kelly in prison, where he sits waiting out criminal charges ranging from sexual assault to child pornography and racketeering in a total of four federal and state courts.

Abdallah could not immediately be reached for comment after the hearing, but the attorneys’ motion says “counsels feel that circumstances have evolved that prevent the counsels from zealously advocating on behalf of the defendant.”

Deutschman declined to comment on the withdrawal.

Kelly has 21 days for a new attorney to file an appearance.

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