Two lawyers for R Kelly ask to pull out of federal case 2 months before trial

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

Two defense attorneys for R&B singer R Kelly, who faces an upcoming federal trial for allegedly leading an “enterprise” of employees who recruited women and girls for sex, have asked to withdraw from the case amidst an apparent clash with their colleagues.

In a letter submitted to US District Judge Ann M. Donnelly late Monday, Steven Greenberg and Michael Leonard asked to relinquish their positions on Kelly’s legal team due to “significant” reasons that make it “impossible” to properly represent the singer.

“On behalf of myself and Mr. Leonard, we respectfully request leave to withdraw our appearances as counsel of record in this matter,” Greenberg wrote. “While we realize that this request comes close to trial — and although we are ready to proceed to trial as scheduled in August — 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. If the Court deems it necessary, we are willing to serving as effective stand-by counsel.”

He added that federal prosecutors were advised of his decision in a phone call, and requested that the court set a hearing in relation to the withdrawal.

Kelly faces several racketeering charges for his alleged role in the enterprise. A federal indictment said enterprise employees demanded women and girls have “absolute commitment” to Kelly, recruit and groom sexual partners for him, and isolate themselves from friends and family — subsequently making them dependent on Kelly.

Kelly is also accused of engaging in several sex acts without informing the partners he has an STD and producing child pornography.

Greenberg didn’t immediately return a request for comment from, however, did publish a statement to numerous mainstream outlets.

“Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client, we weren’t comfortable professionally with allowing lawyers who have never tried federal criminal cases to have significant trial responsibilities,” Greenberg said. “That approach was not to everyone’s liking.”

Greenberg’s grievances come in contrast with comments from three of his colleagues, who say Kelly fired Greenberg and Leonard before the request to withdraw was ever submitted.

Thomas Farinella, one of the remaining members of Kelly’s legal team, told “The only comment we have at this time is that Mr. Kelly terminated both lawyers prior to filing their motion.”

Greenberg reportedly plans to file a similar motion with the judge in Kelly’s Chicago case. There, the singer faces charges related to child pornography and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say Kelly and two employees paid witnesses in his 2008 child pornography trial to change their statements.

“The charges accuse Kelly of engaging in sex acts with five minors and recording some of the abuse on multiple videos,” the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said. “The indictment also charges Kelly with conspiring to intimidate victims and conceal evidence in an effort to obstruct law enforcement, including an investigation in the 2000s that resulted in his trial in 2008 in Cook County on state child pornography charges.”

The 2008 trial concerned Kelly’s alleged 2002 production of a 27-minute sex tape with a girl introduced to him at the age of 12. Prosecutors presented a video they said was Kelly having sex with a woman and a minor, urinating on the minor afterward.

A jury found him not guilty of 14 child pornography charges after his attorneys argued that the footage was digitally altered, claiming a mole near the spine of the man in the video — used to identify him as Kelly — could’ve been a shadow or a computer-generated blip.

“R. Kelly was found not guilty, because they had the best jury that Cook County could produce,” Kelly’s attorney at the time, Sam Adam Jr., said outside the courtroom.

The minor victim in the case, as well as her parents, refused to cooperate with investigators. Kelly’s lawyers painted the other woman in the video as a liar and said she attempted to extort $300,000 from Kelly to keep her from taking the stand.

Kelly’s Chicago trial is set to proceed on September 13. Proceedings in New York will begin August 9th.



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