Two of R. Kelly‘s attorneys have requested to withdraw from the star’s counsel.
Mike Leonardo and Steven Greenberg confirmed to Fox News on Monday that they have asked a New York judge to allow them to step aside in the case.
In a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times written by Greenberg to Judge Ann Donnelly, the Chicago-based attorney said that should the court deem it fit, he and Leonardo would stand “as effective stand-by counsel.”
“While we recognize that this request comes close to trial – and we are ready to proceed to trial as scheduled in August – 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,” he said.
“The government was advised of our position and reasons in a phone call,” Greenberg continued. “We are requesting that the court set our request for hearing.”
“Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client, we weren’t comfortable professionally with allowing lawyers who have never tried federal criminal cases to have significant trial responsibilities,” the attorney told the Sun-Times. “That approach was not to everyone’s liking.”
Echoed Leonard: “Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client, we were only comfortable professionally with giving significant trial responsibilities to those who have substantial federal criminal jury trial experience. We wish Mr. Kelly nothing but the greatest success.”
The exact reasons for the lawyers’ request are currently unclear, but Greenberg has been vocal about his displeasure with the trial on Twitter in the past.
“They are trying so hard to get #Rkelly that they are using a 60 year old law that has never been used before, against anyone,” he tweeted last week.
Kelly’s remaining attorneys – Thomas Farinella, Douglas Anton and Nicole Becker – all shared the same statement in response with Fox News: “The only comment we have at this time is that Mr. Kelly terminated both lawyers prior to filing their motion.”
Greenberg and Leonard, however, both told Fox News that they “were not” terminated by the R&B singer.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn allege Kelly led an enterprise made up of his managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex. A jury is expected to hear testimony from alleged victims, each identified in court papers only as “Jane Doe.”
Born Robert Sylvester Kelly, the three-time Grammy Award-winner has pleaded not guilty to multiple federal and state charges, including child sexual exploitation, child pornography production, kidnapping, forced labor, racketeering and obstruction of justice.
Three alleged accomplices have been charged by prosecutors and are accused of threatening and intimidating people that have accused Kelly of committing crimes.
In April, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly gave the green light to move the star from Chicago to New York ahead of his August trial.
The exact timing of the move was not immediately clear, but it was suggested that the singer be relocated to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
The Associated Press contributed to this report