R. Kelly's lawyers plan to return to court on Sept. 18 to argue the right to release the singer on bond while he awaits trial

R. Kelly will go to trial in April to face federal sexual assault charges filed in Cook County, Illinois, a Chicago judge ruled on Wednesday.

The embattled R&B singer appeared at the hearing clad in an orange prison jumpsuit. According to USA Today, he nodded at the small group of supporters, largely female, who had gathered outside the courthouse. Kelly’s former business manager, Derrel McDavid — currently charged with conspiracy to receive child pornography after he tried to intercept evidence — was also present.

The court date is slated for April 27, and is expected to last for approximately three weeks, ABC7 Chicago reports. However, this may be subject to change due to the fact that he has four state and federal cases pending against him, which are awaiting trial dates.

“We’re beholden to different jurisdictions and different judges,” Kelly’s new defense lawyer, Michael Leonard, told reporters after the hearing on Wednesday. “At this point we have a date in Chicago. It’s not certain, it may change, there may be other dates and other jurisdictions may end up preceding this case. We don’t know.”

Kelly’s attorneys plan to return to court on Sept. 18 to argue the right to release Kelly on bond while he awaits his trial.

At present, his legal team is sifting through thousands of photos, videos, testimony, and other documents. They claim that the evidence found to date reveals major factual flaws in the prosecution’s case. “There’s two things, there is discovery and then of the discovery, what is good evidence for the government,” Leonard added. “I think Steve and I and Chris have been remarkably, I guess, surprised that discovery to date supports our position that factually and legally there is deep flaws in the case here and there is deep flaws in the case in New York.”

Wednesday’s hearing came hours after Kelly was moved from the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s Special Housing Unit, where he’s been held without bond since July 11, into general population at the downtown jail. His lawyer Greenberg tweeted the news on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think you saw that Robert looked the best he’s looked since this ordeal began,” Leonard said. “I think when you’re in solitary confinement, it’s not a Robert Kelly issue, it’s an everybody issue: The courts have recognized, the experts have recognized, it takes a huge psychological toll, so I think you see the unburdening of his spirit now he’s in general population.”

Though Kelly had reportedly been angling to be released from the MCC’s SHU for weeks, the prosecution claim that he had initially refused to go into general population when the option was first offered.

“If I go to population … I’m just up on everybody and everybody’s up on me, and I’m trying to figure out how to trust that or whatever,” Kelly is quoted as saying in a phone call recorded eight days after his arrest, according to the Chicago Tribune. “You know, and that’s why, I was like, hmmm, too many people up on you and I done seen too many movies, you know, and it’s just, and then I’m so popular here, it’s like yeah man,” he allegedly added.

Despite the fact that Kelly’s defense claim he has been denied nearly all human contact, the prosecution insist he has been given three roommates since his incarceration began.

R. Kelly (C) walks to the Layton Criminal Courts building for a status hearing on his sexual assault charges in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 07 May 2019.
R. Kelly in May 2019.
| Credit: TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

In February, Kelly, 52, was hit with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four alleged victims, three of which were specially referred to as under the age of 17. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

An arrest warrant was issued for Kelly in February after the first charges were announced, and he surrendered to Chicago police hours later. Three days later, Kelly was released from jail after paying 10 percent of his $1 million bail amount, the Cook County Sheriff confirmed to PEOPLE at the time.

Then in June, he pleaded not guilty to 11 felony sexual abuse counts after he was charged by Cook County prosecutors in Chicago in May. The charges included five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, and they stemmed from one accuser who claimed Kelly abused her in 2009 and 2010 while she was underage.

In July, the singer was arrested again and indicted on federal charges including child pornography, racketeering and obstruction of justice in both Illinois and New York, indictment documents and his lawyer confirmed. He has remained jailed since after being denied bail.

Last month, Kelly was also charged with two sex crimes in Minnesota after allegedly paying a teen girl $200 to dance nude back in 2001.

The singer faces a maximum prison sentence of over 200 years, according to Reuters.

Kelly, who was also the subject of the bombshell documentary Surviving R. Kelly earlier this year, has maintained his innocence throughout his legal troubles.