- Two of R. Kelly’s lawyers tried to withdraw from his case, but the singer says he fired them first.
- Kelly apologized to a federal judge Wednesday “for the confusion” before she told him to stop talking.
- Kelly, who’s accused of running a sex-trafficking enterprise, will stand trial in August in Brooklyn on racketeering charges.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
R. Kelly’s legal team is in disarray ahead of his New York sex-trafficking trial, with two of his lawyers requesting to withdraw from the case and another lawyer saying the R&B singer fired them first.
At a hearing via conference call Wednesday morning, Kelly tried to address a federal judge directly to explain why he was ditching his attorneys, Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard, who have represented him since 2019.
“First of all, I apologize for the confusion, thank you for giving me the chance to say something about it,” Kelly told Judge Ann Donnelly.
Donnelly interrupted him, saying, “It’s never a great idea to speak without your lawyers.”
Kelly will stand trial in Brooklyn in August on racketeering charges. Prosecutors have alleged Kelly ran an elaborate criminal enterprise to traffic and exploit women and young girls and coerce them into illegal sexual activity.
The singer also faces other federal and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He was the subject of the bombshell
series “Surviving R. Kelly,” detailing dozens of sexual abuse allegations over the course of his decades-long career.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and has denied all of the allegations against him.
Greenberg and Leonard filed a motion Monday asking to withdraw from the case. Greenberg told the judge on Wednesday about a growing rivalry among Kelly’s defense team, including infighting about which lawyer would get to perform big trial roles, such as opening and closing statements and witness cross-examination.
An exiting lawyer accused another member of Kelly’s team of being unable to ‘deal with stress’
Greenberg also accused one of Kelly’s other attorneys of having a mental illness that could prevent them from effectively representing Kelly at trial.
“We have concerns with certain members of the defense who have documented mental health issues,” Greenberg said in the hearing, noting that the lawyer had wanted to cross-examine the most important witnesses.
“They can’t deal with stress,” Greenberg said. “They shut down in those instances.”
Greenberg didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
One of the other attorneys on Kelly’s defense team, Thomas Farinella, told Donnelly that Kelly had already fired both Greenberg and Leonard, and that Kelly had a Sixth Amendment right to be represented by lawyers of his choosing.
When Donnelly asked Kelly whether he wished to terminate Greenberg and Leonard, he confirmed it.
“Absolutely, yes ma’am, your honor,” Kelly said.
Donnelly concluded the hearing by saying she accepted Kelly’s request to no longer be represented by the two lawyers, and said she would soon schedule a pre-trial conference.
Kelly’s trial is set to begin August 9.