CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly could be 80 years old before the singer is free again, based on a 30-year sentence imposed this week by a federal judge in New York for using his fame to sexually assault young fans , including some, were children.
And if the 55-year-old loses three related trials in the coming months, he could be staring at decades more behind bars. That prospect, said one of his lawyers, who was not involved in the New York trial, could lead Kelly to take a plea deal.
Here’s a look at the potential impact of Kelly’s lengthy prison term in New York on these other cases:
WHAT IS THE STATE OF AFFAIRS?
The federal trial in Chicago is next scheduled to begin on August 15. Chicago is Kelly’s hometown and where many of his accusers live, so interest is expected to be especially strong. Kelly faces charges that he and two co-defendants rigged his state child pornography trial in 2008, when he was acquitted.
The other two cases are stateside: a multiple sexual assault case in Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located, and a solicitation case in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Both have been on the back burner while the federal cases played out. No trial dates have been set for either.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF KELLY PURSUING A DEAL?
The odds are better after the sentencing in New York, said Steve Greenberg, Kelly’s longtime attorney who represented Kelly in the Cook County case.
“I suspect there have been discussions” between attorneys on Kelly’s federal trial team and prosecutors, Greenberg said.
A message seeking comment from Kelly’s lead attorney on his federal cases, Jennifer Bonjon, was not immediately returned. She said earlier that Kelly would appeal his convictions in New York.
Kelly must weigh the likelihood of winning the federal case in Chicago against agreeing to a deal that includes more prison time, Greenberg said.
But Greenberg believes the cases against Kelly in Cook County and Minnesota are much weaker and that Kelly could secure acquittals in those state courts.
SHOULD ANOTHER SENTENCE BE ADDED TO THE NEW YORK SENTENCE?
If Kelly is convicted in U.S. District Court in Chicago, his judge could order Kelly to serve that sentence after his New York sentence expires, said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago who is not connected to Kelly’s cases.
Turner said he expected prosecutors to ask for such a consecutive sentence, but that the judge would most likely impose concurrent sentences — meaning they would be served at the same time.
WILL PROSECUTORS BE OPEN TO CONFESSING?
They might be if Kelly agrees to plead guilty to the crimes charged.
Kelly’s attorneys likely won’t agree to anything that includes the possibility of extending the 30-year sentence and would only sign a deal that calls for sentences under 30 years. They would also like assurances that prosecutors will not push for consecutive sentences.
Turner said the benefit for Kelly of the deal, ending the prospect of more trials, is that his lawyers will be able to focus their full attention on the appeal in New York.
Greenberg said there is reason to believe Kelly could prevail on that appeal. Turner said it was a big chance. But if that sentence is thrown out, Turner said Kelly will look to complete what his attorneys hope will be lesser sentences in the other areas.
CAN PROSECUTORS DECIDE TO JUST DISMISS THE OTHER CASES?
The chances of that seem slim.
Turner said the typical mindset in U.S. attorneys’ offices is to remain persistent and aggressive. This attitude is especially pronounced when it comes to Kelly.
“They want this guy bad,” Turner said.
U.S. prosecutors also have unlimited resources, so the cost and time required for a trial won’t deter them, he added.
Turner believed the state cases were more likely to be dismissed, especially if Kelly was convicted in federal court in Chicago and received additional prison time.
“Their resources are much more limited. They will spend money they don’t have,” he said. “They should be prosecuting murders and serious crimes. They may ask, “Why spend (money and time) on Kelly when he already faces decades behind bars.”
WHAT ELSE MAY BE DRIVING DECISIONS TO PROCEED WITH OTHER TRIALS?
The possibility of the New York convictions being overturned is one factor. Kelly could be freed immediately if state prosecutors and federal prosecutors in Chicago choose to drop their cases and the convictions in New York are overturned.
Prosecutors in various districts may view the winning convictions and sentences as insurance that Kelly will stay behind bars — even if an appeals court ends up throwing out some convictions.
IS THERE ANY REASON FOR KELLY TO Plead GUILTY WITH NO DEAL?
A guilty plea to the remaining charges would mean no further trials. That would reduce Kelly’s legal bills, which at times he has struggled to pay.
But Kelly had no guarantee that prosecutors wouldn’t seek the harshest sentences possible.
Still, he could hope that by pleading guilty and taking responsibility, judges would be more inclined to give him sentences at the lower end of the guidelines.
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