R. Kelly’s Attorneys Say Client is ‘Impossible’ to Represent, Ask to Withdraw from Trial

Posted at 1:01 PM, June 8, 2021 and last updated 7:26 PM, May 17, 2023

By Katie McLaughlin

NEW YORK (Court TV) – Lawyers for R. Kelly have filed a motion to withdraw from the entertainer’s New York racketeering trial.

Chicago-based attorneys Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard filed the request on June 7th. In a letter to a federal judge in New York, Greenberg wrote, “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.”

FILE – In this June 6, 2019, file photo, singer R. Kelly appears in court in Chicago. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

In a teleconference hearing that R. Kelly was present for on June 9th, the R&B singer confirmed to a New York federal court judge that he wants to switch counsel from Greenberg and Leonard over to Thomas Farinella and Nicole Becker.

During the proceeding, Kelly told the judge, “I apologize for the confusion, and I’m thankful you gave me a chance to say something about it.”

Greenberg and Leonard said they no longer wish to work on Kelly’s defense with Farinella and Becker, citing “Farinella’s past mental health issue. And, the attorney’s lack of federal trial experience.” Farinella, meanwhile, argued that Greenberg and Leonard’s withdrawal from the case was not voluntary.

The change in Kelly’s legal team is pending the judge’s approval, but for now the trial is on track to start with jury selection on August 9th.

Kelly is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in New York in August on sex trafficking charges.

Greenberg is reportedly planning to make a similar request with the federal judge overseeing Kelly’s Chicago case. This would leave only two attorneys on Kelly’s legal team — Tom Farinella and Nicole Becker.

Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of having sex with underage girls. He was found Not Guilty in a child pornography case back in 2008, but new charges surfaced following the release of the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which featured alleged victims’ stories of manipulation and abuse at the hands of Kelly. Kelly has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying his relationships have all been consensual and that the girls he was with were all of age.

Kelly remains at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) Chicago while he awaits trial. The Grammy winner made multiple failed bids over the past year to be released from the facility due to COVID-19 concerns.

Court TV’s Tiffany Smith contributed to this report.