CHICAGO — The charges against R. Kelly came down like an avalanche: First, four indictments in Cook County. Another in Minnesota. Then a one-two punch of federal cases in Chicago and Brooklyn.
Three years later, the Chicago native, reputed sexual predator, and R&B legend received his first prison sentence: 30 years, handed down Wednesday in the New York case.
Soon enough, Kelly will be back in a federal jail in his hometown, with decisions to make about how to proceed on his other cases. The kind of hard time he got in New York could well change the calculus on how his lawyers and prosecutors in Chicago proceed.
“The law is like physics, for every action there’s a reaction,” said attorney Steve Greenberg, who represents Kelly in his Cook County cases. “And only the individual can decide what their risk tolerance is or what consequence they’re willing to stomach.”
Kelly is slated for trial in Chicago’s federal court in August on charges related to child pornography and obstructing justice. But given that he could be behind bars for decades anyway, attorneys might be more inclined to strike a plea deal, averting at the last minute the stress and public spectacle of a second trial — particularly if the deal included an agreement that his sentences in the New York and Chicago cases would run concurrently, multiple legal experts told The Chicago Tribune.
“On the other hand, some people would say that from Kelly’s perspective, there’s no downside to going to trial now. He basically got a life sentence and if that sticks, it’s not like he’s getting any more time,” Greenberg said.
Prosecutors in Chicago may also be eager to secure a conviction for Kelly as a backup, in case he successfully appeals his New York case, former federal prosecutor Steven Block told the Tribune.
“It would ensure that he remains incarcerated,” Block said, noting also that the New York case involves different victims than the Chicago indictment.
“The prosecutors are likely thinking about this case as vindicating the rights of victims who are not part of the New York case, and that is probably a very compelling reason for them to proceed,” he said.
Greenberg also said that the possibility of a successful New York appeal would probably factor in to any deal that Chicago prosecutors would be willing to strike.