2 d Newsdesk
R. Kelly has confirmed he wants to part ways with two of his criminal defence lawyers, just weeks before the start of his New York trial on sex abuse charges.
The incarcerated singer took part in a status hearing over the phone with U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly on Wednesday, claiming he had fired Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard from his legal team.
Asked to confirm his wish to drop the pair from his representation, Kelly replied, "Absolutely, yes ma'am, your honour."
The judge, who made it clear she would not delay the trial any longer, did not issue an immediate ruling on the motion during the discussion, instead calling on Greenberg and Leonard to further explain their reasons for stepping down.
The colleagues had filed legal papers seeking to withdraw themselves from the embattled star's counsel on Monday, after clashing with his other two lawyers, Thomas Farinella and Nicole Becker.
Expanding on the disagreement in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, Greenberg said: "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. That approach was not to everyone's liking."
However, Farinella and Becker insisted their peers had already been fired from Kelly's team before filing for withdrawal.
The I Believe I Can Fly singer was originally due to face allegations of sex trafficking and racketeering last year, but will now stand trial in August.
He is also set for a separate trial for his child pornography charges in his native Chicago, Illinois in September.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all counts.