R. Kelly cuts ties with legal team to hire Bill Cosby's attorney

New York, New York - Convicted R&B singer R. Kelly officially cut ties with his original Chicago legal team on Wednesday and opted to have the attorney who successfully appealed Bill Cosby’s conviction defend him against his additional pending abuse allegations in federal court.

Jennifer Bonjean celebrated with her client Bill Cosby upon his release from prison (l.). She is now representing R. Kelly (r.) in his upcoming Chicago trial.
Jennifer Bonjean celebrated with her client Bill Cosby upon his release from prison (l.). She is now representing R. Kelly (r.) in his upcoming Chicago trial.  © Collage: Imago/ZUMA Wire

During a telephone conference Wednesday morning, Kelly, who is awaiting sentencing in a Brooklyn federal jail for his racketeering conviction in New York last year, said he wanted Jennifer Bonjean to represent him in his upcoming separate Chicago case, which is currently set for a jury trial on August 1.

"That’s correct, your honor," Kelly answered after US District Judge Harry Leinenweber asked if he was parting ways with his original Chicago-based attorneys, Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard.

Earlier this month, Kelly’s three trial attorneys from the New York case also withdrew their appearances.

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That leaves Bonjean to represent him, who was the driving force behind comedian Bill Cosby’s appeal of his sex crimes conviction in Pennsylvania and wound up winning the actor’s stunning release from prison.

She was already working on an appeal in Kelly’s New York case and is due to file post-trial motions before US District Judge Ann Donnelly on Thursday.

Bonjean is "looking forward" to representing Kelly

Jennifer Bonjean celebrated in the moments after helping to get her client Bill Cosby released from prison (l.). R. Kelly (r.) has now enlisted her help.
Jennifer Bonjean celebrated in the moments after helping to get her client Bill Cosby released from prison (l.). R. Kelly (r.) has now enlisted her help.  © Collage: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire & MediaPunch

Kelly was convicted in September on racketeering conspiracy charges, alleging he used his music career to further a criminal enterprise. The jury found him guilty of 12 individual illegal acts, including sex with multiple underage girls as well as a 1994 scheme to bribe an Illinois public aid official to get a phony ID for 15-year-old singer Aaliyah so the two could get married.

He faces 10 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced in New York in May.

In the upcoming case, the 54-year-old is also charged in US District Court in Chicago with running a years-long scheme to buy back sex tapes he allegedly made with underage girls and to bribe or coerce witnesses in his 2008 child pornography trial, which ended in acquittal.

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Bonjean, whose legal career began in Chicago, told the Tribune last year she’s "looking forward to getting familiar with the record" in Kelly’s New York case. While there are no racketeering allegations in Kelly's Chicago indictment, there is a lot of overlap in the evidence supporting the charges.

Meanwhile, Kelly, who has been in custody since his arrest outside his downtown Chicago condo in July 2019, contracted Covid-19 at the Brooklyn detention facility where he’s now being held, Bonjean revealed in a court filing last month.

His diagnosis hampered his ability to speak on the phone about the appeal of his conviction, Bonjean said, in asking for a two-week extension. She later tweeted that Kelly was "doing well," but said the Covid policies of the Brooklyn federal jail were "putting all inmates in harm’s way."

Covid-19 did not come up during Wednesday’s brief hearing.

Cover photo: Collage: Imago/ZUMA Wire

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