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R Kelly judge orders lawyers not to talk about new evidence

Judge Harry Leinenweber has approved a protective order preventing lawyers speaking about evidence not yet made public.

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Singer R Kelly is currently detained (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File)

Singer R Kelly is currently detained (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File)

Singer R Kelly is currently detained (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File)

A federal judge in Chicago has barred lawyers from divulging new evidence in R Kelly’s child pornography case.

The singer’s lawyers objected to Judge Harry Leinenweber’s protective order, complaining it would unfairly muzzle them as Kelly’s accusers appeared on TV shows and documentaries characterising the evidence.

“They are all giving their version of the facts. … We should be able to respond,” said one of Kelly’s lawyers, Michael Leonard. “They are putting (evidence) in the public domain and tainting the jury pool.”

Prosecutor Angel Krull disputed the portrayal of witnesses speaking widely in public, saying only one of five accusers spoke in the documentary Surviving R Kelly, that earlier this year helped renew interest in allegations levelled at Kelly for decades.

  • Stops lawyers talking about new evidence that has not been made public
  • It is not a gag on all comments by lawyers
  • Defence lawyers can ask judge for permission to comment on new evidence if R Kelly's accusers speak about it in the press

More generally, she said that “the vast majority of our evidence has never seen the light of day” and should be held from public scrutiny until trial.

Kelly, 52, is jailed in the case on charges that also include coercing minors to engage in sex.

Marshals are transporting him to New York for an arraignment on Friday on related charges, and he faces similar Illinois charges brought by Cook County prosecutors. Kelly, who did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in Chicago, has denied any wrongdoing.

Judge Leinenweber’s order is not a gag on all public comments by lawyers. For now, they simply cannot speak about evidence not yet released publicly.

He told defence lawyers that they can always come back to court and ask him for permission to speak publicly on new evidence if Kelly’s accusers or their spokesmen comment on it first.

The judge also said he would like to aim for an April 2020 trial. He said he would fix a date during the next status hearing on September 4.

PA