With just two months to go until the start of his racketeering trial in Brooklyn, R. Kelly has officially lost two original members of his defense team.
Attorneys Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard, who had represented the 54-year-old Chicago native since sexual-abuse charges were levied against him in February of 2019, formally requested to withdraw from the Brooklyn case on Monday. However, other legal professionals (who are still preparing to represent the R&B star at the August 9th trial) have claimed that R. Kelly fired Greenberg and Leonard before they moved to withdraw, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
Moreover, R. Kelly in a brief court appearance today confirmed that he approved of the far-reaching representation shakeup. But in a letter to the presiding judge, Greenberg indicated that his and Leonard’s reasons for backing out were “significant,” before relaying that “it is impossible, in our belief, for us to be able to continue to properly represent Mr. Kelly under the current circumstances.”
It’s unclear whether the move will prompt the court to further postpone the long-delayed case (though one of Kelly’s remaining attorneys said that it can proceed as scheduled), and Greenberg and Leonard in statements suggested that their departure stemmed from the other defense attorneys’ desire to have a larger presence in the fast-approaching trial.
“Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client,” wrote Leonard, “we were only comfortable professionally with giving significant trial responsibilities to those who have substantial federal criminal jury trial experience.”
Moreover, Greenberg appeared to reference his departure from Kelly’s defense team in a pair of tweets on Monday. “Sometimes you can’t save someone from themselves, no matter how hard you try,” he authored. “Sometimes people just won’t listen and there is nothing you can do.”
But both Greenberg and Leonard wished R. Kelly luck, and aside from claiming that the latter attorneys had been fired, once again, the remaining counsel didn’t appear to have commented publicly on the matter at the time of this piece’s publishing. For reference, one of these individuals, Michigan attorney Nicole Becker, makes clear on her website that she “focuses SOLELY on Sex Crimes.”
The other two attorneys (one of whom is based out of New York, the other of whom has law offices in New Jersey) appear to operate more all-encompassing and multifaceted legal practices.
Independent of these racketeering charges in Brooklyn, R. Kelly – who has unsuccessfully attempted to secure bail on multiple occasions, including after being attacked by another inmate last September – is facing felony charges in Chicago (where he was found not guilty of 14 of 14 counts of child pornography in 2008) and in Minnesota, for allegedly soliciting a minor in July of 2001.