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Universal Music ordered to hand over R Kelly royalties to pay fines and restitution

By | Published on Friday 25 August 2023

A US judge this week told Universal Music Publishing that more than $500,000 in royalties due to R Kelly should instead be handed to federal prosecutors in New York. The money will be used to pay off fines and restitution stemming from his conviction in the New York courts back in 2021, where the former musician was found guilty of running of a criminal enterprise in order to sexually and physically abuse women and teenagers.

Responding to this week’s court order, Kelly’s current legal rep, Jennifer Bonjean, stressed that her client is appealing this conviction – and another one that resulted from a separate trial in Chicago – and that when the appeals courts “reverse Mr Kelly’s convictions, we will seek the return of every cent that has been wrongfully taken from him”.

Prosecutors began legal action last year to seize funds from Kelly in order to pay off fines that were part of the sentence in the New York case. They initially went after monies that were sitting in Kelly’s prison inmate account. The musician’s debts then increased when he was ordered to pay restitution to some of the victims who testified during the New York trial.

Attention then turned to income generated by Kelly’s music, managed by his former label Sony Music on the recordings side and former publisher Universal Music Publishing when it comes to income from his songs.

The prosecutors weren’t the only people going after Kelly’s Sony royalties. Another of the musician’s victims – Heather Williams – is seeking to claim the $4 million in damages she was awarded in a civil lawsuit in 2020. And an entity called Midwest Commercial Funding is seeking to recover another $3.5 million debt.

However, it seems that the monies due to Kelly from Universal are sufficient to cover the fines and restitution in New York. District judge Ann Donnelly signed an order instructing Universal to pay $520,549 to the New York prosecutors on Wednesday.

Bonjean’s full statement on this week’s ruling reads: “We maintain that Mr Kelly’s convictions and the restitution orders were erroneous and the Second Circuit [Appeals Court] will have the final word on it. I can promise that when the Second Circuit reverses Mr Kelly’s convictions, we will seek the return of every cent that has been wrongfully taken from him”.