R. Kelly gave an emotional and explosive talk, defending his innocence in his first interview since being charged with sexual abuse.
As if R. Kelly didn’t have enough legal woes, now his ex-lawyer, who saw him through child-porn charges more than a decade ago, told a Chicago newspaper columnist Friday that the R&B star was “guilty as hell.”
Ed Genson, a famous Chicago defense attorney who says he’s dying of cancer, might be in trouble for violating legal ethics rules, which say attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct and permanent unless the client lifts it.
No doubt Kelly would not be thrilled that his ex-defense lawyer is commenting on his guilt.
Steve Greenberg, Kelly’s current defense attorney, told USA TODAY that Genson has been in and out of the hospital lately.
“When I asked him about the comments he told me that he has no recollection of the conversation and he would never have said that because it would be completely improper, and wrong,” Greenberg said in an email to USA TODAY.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s spokeswoman did not return a message from USA TODAY. Kelly’s publicist, Darryll Johnson, said he would issue a statement later.
Meanwhile, Genson’s comments sent shock waves through the Cook County legal community for seemingly betraying his former client, who now faces 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four women, including three who were allegedly underage at the time.
“He definitely violated his ethical responsibilities,” says Monu Bedi, a law professor at DePaul University who’s been following the Kelly case. “Lawyers cannot reveal information learned during representation, especially a statement regarding a person’s guilt.”
“It was extraordinarily inappropriate – clearly Genson violated his professional duties to his client, and the fact that Kelly is no longer his client is completely immaterial and irrelevant,” adds Chicago criminal defense attorney Andrew Stoltmann. “It’s a huge breach, an electrifying turn of events.”
Genson represented Kelly at least twice: When he was tried on child pornography in Cook County in 2008 and was acquitted; and when he was arrested on similar charges in 2003 in Polk County, Florida, after investigators said they found 12 photographs of a nude girl at his rental home – charges that were eventually dropped.
So when Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg interviewed Genson in his Deerfield, Illinois, home several weeks ago, he naturally asked him about Kelly’s latest sex-crimes case.
“Any insights into R. Kelly, the man? Guilty as hell?” Steinberg asked.
“He was guilty as hell!” Genson replied. “I don’t think he’s done anything inappropriate for years. I’ll tell you a secret: I had him go to a doctor to get shots, libido-killing shots. That’s why he didn’t get arrested for anything else.”
Steinberg held off on sharing the story because he didn’t want to affect potential jurors. But after seeing Kelly’s ranting, crying, screaming interview with Gayle King, “that seems no longer a concern,” the reporter explained.
Although such a declaration is potentially grounds for disbarment, Genson had no concerns given that he’s dying of bile duct cancer.
“I can say whatever I want, but we’ve got to do it fast,” he told Steinberg. “It would be nice to get it down so somebody knows besides me.”
Now everybody who reads the Sun-Times knows about it.
“The Sun-Times is a tabloid popular in working-class white, African-American and Hispanic communities that will be the likely jury pool, so it’s likely at least some of them will have read this,” Stoltmann said. “The defense could use this as an example of the negative coverage against Kelly that makes it impossible to get a fair trial.”
Bedi said the issue is less urgent given that Kelly is already famous so potential jurors will likely already have opinions about him.
“The key will be the judge and attorneys questioning them during the voir dire process (pretrial questioning process of potential jurors) to make sure they will keep an open mind,” Bedi said.
Michael Avenatti, the Los Angeles lawyer who says he represents two of the accusers in the current criminal case against Kelly (and who gave prosecutors a 1999 video that allegedly shows Kelly in sexual acts with a minor), says Genson’s comments about his former client are “highly, highly unusual,” but they’re helpful to the prosecution.
“Because the more people that believe that R. Kelly is guilty, that’s better for the prosecution,” he told USA TODAY, adding that he doubts the comments will lead to a change of venue for Kelly’s trial.
“If they move this case anywhere outside Chicago, a guilty verdict is all but assured,” Avenatti said. “Chicago is the only place where he has even a remote chance of beating this. R. Kelly and his lawyers want to keep this in Chicago.”
Kelly is currently in jail in Chicago for failure to pay delinquent child support to his ex-wife, and is trying to get more than $161,000 together.
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