CHICAGO (AP) — Jail personnel moved R. Kelly on Tuesday into the general inmate population despite earlier concerns — apparently shared at one point by the singer — that other inmates could try to hurt him because of his celebrity status or because he is accused of sexually assaulting minors, federal prosecutors in Chicago said in a new court filing.
Word that Kelly has been moved from a restrictive unit at a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago comes days after Kelly's lawyers said the 52-year-old had been held in solitary confinement by no fault of his own since his July arrest, with none of the privileges of other inmates, such as access to TV or candy from the jail commissary, or to outdoor exercise and daily showers. They characterized the conditions as "cruel and unusual punishment."
But in their Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago, prosecutors disputed defense suggestions Kelly had been kept in the special housing unit, called the SHU, against his will and for no good reason, alleging Kelly himself had asked after his July arrest on federal charges to be kept from other inmates. From the SHU, Kelly also was able to purchase items from the jail store, "including snacks such as Snickers," the filing says.
Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, said he was pleased his client was no longer in the special housing unit, which Greenberg said also hampered Kelly' preparation for trial.
"But he shouldn't have been there in the first place," he said. "If you are going to arrest high-profile individuals, you should find a way to hold them in a non-draconian way."
Kelly faces 40 counts of sexual various state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York, from child pornography to the aggravated sexual assault. The Grammy Award-winner has entered not guilty pleas in all the cases but the one in Minnesota , where he will be arraigned later.
A status hearing in Kelly's federal case in Chicago is set for Wednesday, where Judge Harry Leinenweber is likely to ask attorneys about Kelly's current jail conditions.
Prosecutors quoted Kelly as saying in a recorded phone call from jail when he was still in the restrictive unit that he was torn about whether he could trust other inmates if transferred to areas where inmates mingle and interact. He said the jail staff told him he could give it a try for a few days.
But "they can't guarantee nothing," Kelly was quoted as telling the other person on the line, who was not identified in the filing. "I was like, hmmm, too many people up on you and I done seen too many movies, you know, and it's just ... I'm so popular here."
Kelly initially had misgivings about being in the general inmate population but quickly changed his mind, Greenberg said. He added that he wasn't overly worried that a fellow inmate might bid to make a name for himself by attacking a celebrity.
"Kelly is still enormously popular, especially in minority communities," Greenberg said. "What kind of a name do you make for yourself by hitting R. Kelly?"
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mtarm