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R. Kelly asks to serve Chicago and New York sentences at same time

The singer’s attorney argues the government has a racist obsession with ensuring he dies in prison.

CHICAGO (CN) — R. Kelly's lead attorney filed a sentencing memo in Chicago federal court Friday morning, asking a judge to show leniency when considering an appropriate punishment for the singer's conviction last year on child porn and sexual enticement charges.

Kelly is already serving a 30-year sentence for his 2021 racketeering and sex trafficking conviction in New York, and federal prosecutors have urged that he serve an additional 10-90 years for his Chicago conviction, after the time served in the New York case.

His attorney Jennifer Bonjean instead argues that U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber should not sentence Kelly to more than 14 years, and that the former R&B star should be allowed to serve his Chicago and New York sentences concurrently.

For a 56-year-old diabetic, Bonjean wrote in the memo, 30 years is already "a de facto life sentence."

"A consecutive sentence will serve no specific deterrent as Kelly is likely to die in prison either way," the memo states. "Even if he beat the statistical odds, he would not be released from prison until well into his 80s, long after he is a threat of any kind to the general public."

Bonjean further alleges that federal prosecutors' desire to have Kelly suffer a multi-decade consecutive sentence is based in racial animus. She doubted Kelly would face such heavy prosecution were he white, and pointed out that while he faces spending the rest of his life in prison, white artists who have slept with minors - such as Elvis Presley - are still lauded in mainstream culture.

"The federal government's obsession with ensuring that Kelly dies in prison is particularly troubling where it seems to have no appetite for investigating or initiating prosecutions of numerous other famous (White) musicians with credible histories of sexually abusing underage women," the memo states, adding that compared to similarly situated white counterparts, the government seems to have "a unique, unprecedented contempt for Kelly that is wanting as to his similarly situated white counterparts."

"In fact, iconic white musicians like Elvis Pressley [sic], who married his 14-year old girlfriend, are currently being celebrated in Academy nominated movies. In contrast, the government argues that one life sentence isn't enough for Kelly," Bonjean wrote.

Friday's sentencing memo comes after Bonjean filed three prior motions - one for acquittal and two for a new trial - attempting to avert Kelly's Chicago sentencing entirely. The filings argue that two government witnesses in the Chicago trial – including star witness "Jane," Kelly's goddaughter – perjured themselves on the stand without correction from the prosecution.

Leinenweber, a Ronald Reagan appointee, has yet to issue a ruling on any of these motions, but with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 23, it seems unlikely that he will grant them.

In May 2022, the judge also denied a pre-trial motion to have Kelly's case dismissed, in which Bonjean argued that the charges against Kelly had passed their statute of limitations by the time he was indicted in 2019.

Should Kelly proceed to sentencing, Bonjean said she and her team plan to appeal his conviction before the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit regardless of the sentence Leinenweber hands down.

"There are definitely meritorious issues for appeal," Bonjean said in a phone interview.

Kelly is currently in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

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