NEW YORK (Reuters) - Singer R. Kelly will face a May 18 trial on charges that he recruited underage girls and women to have sex with him, isolating them and controlling what they ate and when they went to the bathroom, a US judge ruled on Wednesday.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly set the date for next year’s trial, which had been agreed on by prosecutors and Kelly’s lawyers, at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.
The 52-year-old R&B singer, known for such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” was arrested in Chicago in July on separate sets of charges brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and Chicago. He has pleaded not guilty.
The singer had denied abuse allegations for decades before the latest charges. In 2008, he was tried on child pornography charges and found not guilty.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say Kelly and his entourage invited women and girls backstage after concerts, kept them from friends and family and made them dependent on him financially.
The Chicago prosecutors said Kelly had sexual contact with five minors and recorded sexually explicit videos of some of them. They also accused Kelly of obstructing justice by using threats and bribes, including payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to keep his victims quiet.
A trial in Chicago has been scheduled for April 27.
The federal charges were brought after seven women, including his ex-wife, appeared on a Lifetime network television documentary which aired in January and accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.
Kelly has been in jail since his July arrest, despite his lawyers’ repeated efforts to have him released on bail. Judges in both Brooklyn and Chicago would need to sign off on his release, and Judge Donnelly on Wednesday refused to do so, saying there was a substantial risk he would flee the country.
In addition to the two federal cases, Kelly is facing charges from state prosecutors in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis