CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday barred attorneys from divulging new evidence in R. Kelly’s child pornography case, saying he wants to ensure the celebrity case isn’t tried in the media.
The singer’s attorneys objected to the protective order Judge Harry Leinenweber approved during a hearing in U.S. District Court, saying it’d keep them from responding to comments by Kelly accusers characterizing any evidence.
Defense lawyer Michael Leonard complained potential government witnesses are appearing on TV shows and in documentaries, “tainting” any future jury pool, and that Kelly’s legal team should be able to counteract that.
But prosecutor Angel Krull said four out of five victims who could testify have never spoken publicly.
“The vast majority of our evidence has never seen the light of day,” she told the court.
Kelly is jailed on charges that also include coercing minors to engage in sex. Marshals are transporting him to New York for a Friday arraignment on related charges. He didn’t attend Wednesday’s hearing.
Leinenweber’s order isn’t a gag on all comments by lawyers. They just can’t speak about evidence not yet made public. He told defense lawyers they can always ask him for permission to comment publicly on new evidence if Kelly accusers or their representatives comment on it in the press.
The judge also said Wednesday he’d like to aim for an April 2020 trial. He said he’d like to fix a day during the next status hearing on Sept. 4.
The 82-year-old Leinenweber revealed last week that before his assignment to the case this month he hadn’t heard of Kelly, whose hits include “I Believe I Can Fly.”