R. Kelly Prison Funds Can Be Seized to Pay Victims, Judge Rules

A New York federal judge ruled Friday that prosecutors could seize tens of thousands of dollars held by R. Kelly in his prison funds account in order to pay fines and restitution to his victims.

The ruling in New York, which came as Kelly is currently standing trial in Chicago over separate criminal charges, ordered the federal Bureau of Prisons to hand over $27,824 to prosecutors, who will hold them until a final ruling is issued on how much Kelly owes in restitution.

After decades of accusations of sexual misconduct, Kelly was convicted last year in New York on racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from accusations that he orchestrated a long-running scheme to recruit and abuse women and underage girls. In June, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The government moved to seize Kelly’s inmate funds after a Washington Post article last month detailed how the Bureau of Prisons was “pushing back” against efforts to make inmates turn over such money to pay their victims. The article reported that such funds generate $80 million per year for the agency, which is used to fund salary and benefits for hundreds of staffers with the bureau.

“The defendant has amassed nearly thirty-thousand dollars in his inmate trust account over the course of the last three years of incarceration,” federal prosecutors argued. “The defendant has not made any payments towards the substantial criminal monetary penalties imposed upon him at sentencing, even though payment was due immediately.”

Faced with that demand, Kelly argued that the government had improperly “confiscated” the funds and did not have the authority to do so. But Judge Ann Donnelly easily rejected those arguments on Friday, saying there was “no dispute” that federal statutes authorized prosecutors to use Kelly’s inmate funds to pay back victims.

Kelly is gearing up to appeal the New York convictions, which could take months or longer. His attorneys have made various arguments challenging the verdict, including sharp critiques of his former legal team and claims that the evidence was too weak to support a conviction.

The Chicago case – which deals with accusations of child pornography and obstruction of justice over Kelly’s infamous video tape from the 2000s – is currently in a fourth week of trial. On Wednesday, his former business manager and co-defendant took the witness stand, testifying that he had “believed” Kelly’s denials of sexual misconduct and thought the allegations were merely “rumors.”

The trial is set to wrap up next week; if convicted, Kelly could face decades more tacked onto his 30-year prison sentence.