Eight weeks ahead of R. Kelly’s sexual abuse trial, two of his attorneys have requested to withdraw from his counsel.
According to multiple outlets, Attorneys Mike Leonardo and Steven Greenberg — who have worked with the disgraced singer for years — filed documents on Monday (June 8) asking a New York judge to allow them to withdraw from Kelly's federal case.
“While we recognize that this request comes close to trial – and 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,” Attorney Greenberg told Judge Ann Donnelly in a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, per The Independent.
He added in a statement, “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 and Leonardo additionally told TMZ, "We refused to try a case with lawyers who don’t have the appropriate level of experience and skill because that is not in the client's best interest. It is a shame that lawyers can’t suppress their own egos or self interest and do or act in the client's best interest."
Kelly's remaining attorneys Thomas A. Farinella and Nicole Blank Becker also spoke with the outlet. However, they told a different story, claiming, "Mr. Kelly terminated both lawyers [Greenberg and Leonardo] prior to filing their motion."
TMZ noted that the judge would have to sign off before Greenberg and Leonard could be fired, which hasn't happened yet.
In February, it was announced that Kelly's New York trial on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking had been postponed again.
A judge decided to push the trial, which was set for April, back by four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Page Six reported earlier this year.
“We are scheduled for an April trial date but I suspect it’s not going to come as a surprise that that is not a date that is going to work given the current conditions,” Brooklyn federal Judge Ann Donnelly said during the hearing held by phone, per the outlet.
She then set a new trial date of August 9.
Kelly's New York trial will be held one month before his next scheduled trial, which is also centered on charges of sexual misconduct, in Chicago that is tentatively set for September. Last year, a federal judge set the disgraced singer's Chicago trial date for September 13, 2021, noting that the date could potentially change due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly was hit with a total of 18 counts of sexual misconduct and other charges in Chicago and New York at the beginning of 2020.
He was arrested in July in Chicago, where prosecutors charged him with a number of sex crime-related charges, including producing and receiving child pornography and inducing minors to engage in sexual activity. He was also charged with obstruction of justice, as prosecutors claim he "thwarted an earlier 2008 prosecution in Cook County with threats, gifts, and six-figure payoffs," Chicago's Fox 32 reported at the time.
Kelly entered a not-guilty plea in both Chicago and New York cases. If he is found guilty, he faces a minimum of 15 years behind bars and a maximum sentence of 195 years in prison based on the Chicago charges alone.
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