Cash-strapped R. Kelly asked a judge Wednesday to let him travel to the Middle East to perform several concerts, according to a new court filing that said he has struggled to get work in the U.S. since his February arrest on sex abuse charges.
The R&B singer hopes to do up to five concerts next month in Dubai, according to a motion filed in Cook County Circuit Court. It doesn’t specify venues or how much Kelly could earn from the concerts, which the filing contends were arranged prior to Kelly’s arrest.
Kelly, 52, also plans to meet members of royal families in the United Arab Emirates, the filing said.
The motion said Kelly is scrambling to pay child support, legal fees, and everyday expenses because of the cancellation of Illinois concerts and a record contract, as well as the removal of his songs from streaming services.
“He cannot work, and consequently cannot make a living if he is confined to Illinois, or even the United States,” according to the five-page court document. “Mr. Kelly needs to generate income.”
A judge could rule on the travel request at a Friday pretrial hearing.
Wednesday’s filing also criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, accusing her of using the case “to thrust herself into the spotlight of the #metoo movement” and to boost her nationwide profile.
A Foxx spokeswoman said prosecutors would respond to the defense filing at the Friday hearing but declined further comment.
Kelly grew up in a Chicago public housing project and went on to become an internationally-acclaimed singer. But amid abuse allegations, music industry executives and fans have started keeping their distance. Lawsuits and tax issues have also hurt him financially.
Kelly was charged Feb. 22 with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse for allegedly assaulting three underage girls and one adult woman. He has denied ever abusing anyone.
Defense lawyer Steve Greenberg joked to a judge the next day at a bond hearing that, “Contrary to the song, Mr. Kelly doesn’t like to fly” — a reference to the singer’s hit “I Believe I Can Fly.”
But Wednesday’s filing said that for a worldwide star like Kelly, travel is essential.
It took the Grammy winner days after his arrest to raise the $100,000 required on $1 million bond to win release. In a separate case earlier this month, Kelly was briefly jailed again until he paid $160,000 in back child support.
Among the bond conditions in his sex abuse case was that he surrender his passport and that he not travel outside Illinois without the judge’s permission.
Wednesday’s filing argued Kelly is no flight risk, noting how he was permitted to travel before his 2008 child pornography trial and always appeared for pretrial hearings. Jurors later acquitted him on all counts.
The United Arab Emirates does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. but the Persian Gulf nation would never jeopardize its good bilateral relationship by harboring a fugitive Kelly, the filing said.