Two of R. Kelly’s defense lawyers withdraw in shake-up just months before trial
E. Jason Wambsgans/AFP via Getty Images
(NEW YORK) — Two of R. Kelly’s top lawyers no longer want to represent the disgraced R&B singer just two months before he’s scheduled to stand trial in a Brooklyn, New York, federal court on sex abuse charges.
Lead defense attorney Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard filed a request to withdraw from the case Monday. They told a judge during a status conference Wednesday they no longer want to represent Kelly, citing a lack of cooperation with his two other lawyers.
“Everyone wants to do opening, everyone wants to do closing, and that just can’t be,” Greenberg said Wednesday. “It got to the point where we went to discuss these concerns with Mr. Kelly. Mr. Kelly wouldn’t meet with us.”
Another defense attorney, Thomas Farinella, asserted that it was Kelly’s decision to let go of Greenberg and Leonard.
“Mr. Kelly terminated Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Leonard,” Farinella said during the Wednesday conference, noting that Kelly sent notice to them last week. “He does not wish to have Mr. Greenberg or Mr. Leonard represent him.”
Greenberg explained that he received a document from someone who claimed to be the power of attorney for Kelly and that he attempted to meet with Kelly twice, but he refused. After he filed the motion to withdraw from the case, Greenberg said he received an e-mail from Kelly that said he did not wish to continue working together.
Judge Anne Donnelly ordered the defense attorneys to submit their gripes in writing to the court.
In the motion to withdraw, Greenberg wrote, “While we realize that this request comes close to trial — and although we are ready to proceed to trial as scheduled in August — our reasons for withdrawal are significant, and it is impossible, in our belief, for us to be able to continue to properly represent Mr. Kelly under the current circumstances.”
Donnelly asked Kelly, who was present for the hearing, if he wished to continue with just two of his defense attorneys: Farinella and Nicole Becker.
“Absolutely, yes ma’am,” Kelly responded. He also apologized to the judge for the confusion and said he was thankful he had been given the opportunity to explain.
The judge said she’ll make a quick decision, and it’s likely she’ll agree with all the parties in having Kelly continue with just Farinella and Becker. Farinella and Becker did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Greenberg told ABC News that he and Leonard decided to withdraw from the case first, before Kelly terminated them.
“They are just trying to make us look bad rather than take any accountability for their own inexperience,” Greenberg said. They will continue to work with Kelly in a separate case in a Northern District of Illinois court.
Donnelly said there will be no delay to the start of Kelly’s trial. Kelly was indicted in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in 2019 on racketeering charges that alleged he ran a criminal enterprise that trafficked women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact, isolated them and threatened them to keep them under his control.
In Chicago, Kelly is also set for trial in September, where he’s charged with several sex abuse counts. Kelly has denied the sex trafficking allegations.
Kelly is currently being held in Chicago and will be transported by U.S. Marshals in advance of jury selection Aug. 9.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.