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Chicago federal courthouse to close Tuesday, delaying R. Kelly trial proceedings

The Dirksen US Courthouse in downtown Chicago will be closed Tuesday due to an unspecified “operational issue,” federal authorities announced Monday evening in an email sent to attorneys.

The closure will delay proceedings in all jury trials, including that of disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly and two former associates on charges related to child pornography and obstruction of justice.

Kelly’s Chicago federal trial was scheduled to begin its fourth week on Tuesday morning, when defense attorneys were expected to continue presenting their witnesses.

The trial has been on a particularly tight schedule. Given continued COVID-19 restrictions, only one courtroom at Dirksen is large enough to handle a multiple-defendant trial, and it is in high demand. If Kelly’s trial lasts much longer than four weeks, it risks conflicting with subsequent trials slated for that courtroom, which could throw off schedules for months to come.

A delay of even one day will almost certainly push Kelly’s trial past the four-week mark. Defense attorneys have yet to call several expected witnesses, including co-defendant Derrel McDavid, who was slated to begin testing on his own behalf Tuesday. Closing arguments are likely to be lengthy, and jury deliberations are always unpredictable — especially given the relatively complicated charges.

Kelly, 55, faces an indictment charging him with 13 counts of production of child pornography, conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Also charged are former Kelly associates McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, who are accused in an alleged scheme to buy back incriminating sex tapes that had been taken from Kelly’s collection and to hide years of alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.

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