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Why is R. Kelly Being Denied Bail?

Key Takeaways from the Infamous R. Kelly Case

Criminal sexual conduct (CSC) in Michigan defines a group of crimes that not only include what used to be called rape, a term that is scarcely used in actual laws these days, but a broad range of crimes involving sexual penetration and sexual contact. This range of crimes falls under different factual circumstances, known as multiple variables, that make it illegal. Michigan also has other sex crimes that don't fall under any of the four degrees of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan, such as accosting a child for immoral purposes, gross indecency, and others.

The "Me Too" movement and media reports of sex crime charges against too many celebrities and public figures to keep track of allowed people to learn that criminal sexual conduct charges carry serious penalties upon conviction, including life in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, sex offender registration under SORA, and a host of other consequences and lasting effects.

Admittedly, even as a Michigan attorney concentrating on defending those accused of CSC across Michigan, my practice doesn't allow me to keep up with all the news on Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Prince Andrew, and others. When I do get the chance, I see a lot of commentators and laypeople adopting a "guilty until proven innocent" mentality. It’s rather upsetting, frankly, that someone in my position cannot ignore it because these people are potential jurors. But what I do is use these news stories from time to time as springboards for discussion of topics that are very important to my clients facing criminal sexual conduct charges in Michigan.

Contact Prain Law, PLLC to learn more about how we can help with your CSC case today. 

Why Is R. Kelly Still in Jail?

Today, I'd like to take a look at the case involving the famous R&B singer Robert Kelly, commonly known as "R. Kelly." Kelly has been accused of various sex crimes in many states, including engaging in sexual penetration with underage girls. As a result, he faces state charges in Illinois and Minnesota, as well as federal charges in Illinois and New York.

For comparison, if Kelly were charged with acts of sexual penetration with girls under the age of consent in Michigan, he would be charged with either:

In the case of R. Kelly, the basic story is that a Cook County state court in Illinois first charged Kelly back in February 2019. I don't have access to his actual court documents, so I don't claim 100% factual accuracy here. But, like the normal procedure for any person facing criminal sexual conduct charges, Kelly was brought to arraignment and the court told him the terms and conditions of his bond. Typical CSC bond conditions include:

  • no contacting the alleged victim
  • no leaving the state
  • no engaging in any criminal activity
  • returning to court as ordered

Some people are released on a personal recognizance bond if their charges are minor and they have no significant criminal history, allowing them to avoid paying money bail. You should note that the terms "bond" and "bail" are often used interchangeably, as they both refer to the money defendants pay to avoid sitting in jail. However, bond refers to the written promise you execute with the court agreeing to do or not do certain things on a list (i.e. no contact, etc.) in exchange for your release. Bail is the proper name for the money portion of that larger list of obligations. However, bond and bail are both loosely used to describe the money element, which is the focus of our discussion here.

In R. Kelly's court case, the bail amounts for each of his four charges were set to $250,000, meaning that Kelly needed to pay $1 million to await trial as a free man rather than sit in jail. He did, so Kelly was set free. After being released on a $1 million aggregate money bail, R. Kelly gave his controversial interview to Gayle King of CBS This Morning, which some people argue did him more damage than good. But even though he was bailed out in the summer of 2019 pending trial on Cook County state charges, Kelly was indicted on federal charges in New York and Illinois and was denied bail in federal court. Recently, Kelly appealed the denial of bail to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, but even the appeals court denied him.

There's a lot more to the R. Kelly bail/bond denial saga. For instance, the bail bondswoman (also called a "surety") who apparently posted Kelly's bail in the Illinois state court, filed a motion to exonerate the bond, meaning she wanted her money back, and much more. But it is important to realize that commentators who said Kelly did not make his $1 million bail after he got federal charges were incorrect. Kelly did, in fact, post that bail and was set free. The reason he is still in jail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago is that he did not get bail in federal court. None.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

I know you're probably thinking (or should be thinking), "R. Kelly is supposed to be presumed innocent, so why is he in jail?" Great point. The entire purpose of being charged and accused but not proven guilty shouldn't be treating people like they're already guilty. But the reality is, the law in every state and federal jurisdiction allows the court to balance your right to be presumed innocent against the risk that you might flee and not show up in court, or that you might be an alleged danger to someone.

So, the bottom line is that ordering people to make bail by paying money that they may or may not have is a time-honored practice that likely isn't going anywhere soon. The U.S. Constitution only requires the accused to be entitled to reasonable bail that is not excessive. Each jurisdiction has its own specific guidelines for how bail should be set. The federal prosecutors simply have been successful in convincing the magistrate judge that R. Kelly is a flight risk.

RELATED: click here for our Article on the Criminal Sexual Conduct Court Procedure in Michigan.

In Michigan, the rules governing money bail and other bond conditions at arraignment are outlined in its court rules, specifically the Michigan Court Rule, or MCR 6.106. Basically, the judge looks at a list of factors under that Rule to decide whether you are:

  • a flight risk; or
  • danger to the community.

If there is reason to believe that you might represent either of those risks, meaning a personal recognizance won't reasonably ensure that you will come back to court and do not hurt anyone, then the arraigning judge or magistrate will decide how much of your cash will be collateral. This is intended to ensure you return to court and don't create a risk of harm. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and there are no guidelines like there are Sentencing Guidelines. If the amount is too high for you to post, you may be able to use the assistance of a bail bondsman ("surety"), and your Michigan CSC defense attorney can help set that up in advance.

However, first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan under MCL 750.520 is one of the very few crimes that a person can be completely denied bail, meaning that unless you successfully challenge that ruling by filing a Motion to Reduce Bail or appealing it to an appellate court, you'll be awaiting the resolution of your case in the county jail as a pretrial detainee. This means you are supposed to be separated from inmates because they have already pleaded, been found guilty, and are serving their sentence in jail or awaiting transfer to prison within the Michigan Department of Corrections.

R. Kelly is legally innocent, not in jail for committing any crimes, and has not been sentenced at all, which raises the question of why he was recently assaulted in custody.

Of course, if you are charged with criminal sexual conduct in Michigan, being arraigned and getting your bail amount is only the beginning of the Michigan CSC court process. The point of this article is to inform, not solicit, clients. But it is important to have an experienced and knowledgeable Michigan attorney on your side from the start of police Investigation because:

  • they can help dramatically decrease the likelihood of getting a high bail amount
  • your lawyer can help you avoid getting arrested altogether
  • you could ultimately be found not guilty of criminal sexual conduct

Contact a Trusted Defense Attorney For Your CSC Case

Metro Detroit, Michigan attorney, Brian J. Prain of Prain Law, PLLC, is not just a top-rated "jack of all trades" criminal defense attorney. Brian specifically concentrates on defending those accused of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan and has received countless awards and honors as a result, including:

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal sexual conduct charges in Michigan, contact Prain Law, PLLC anytime at (248) 731-4543.

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Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.