R Kelly has been charged with knowingly exposing partners to an STI, but he thinks prosecutors made a rash decision. As TMZ reports, lawyers for the singer are arguing that herpes doesn’t meet the definition of a sexually transmitted infection as laid out by the New York State Department of Health, and therefore charges should be dropped.
It’s hard to know how seriously a judge would take this argument. He’s been charged under N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 2307, which reads, “Any person who, knowing himself or herself to be infected with an infectious venereal disease, has sexual intercourse with another shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Kelly is not arguing that he wasn’t aware of his infection, but rather that herpes doesn’t count. The law doesn’t expound on which diseases fall under this statute, and there’s a precedent for a narrower definition. Via The Center for HIV Law and Policy, the NYSDOH said in 2017 that it “interprets the law as only applying to individuals who knowingly expose another individual to an acute, bacterial venereal disease such as syphilis or gonorrhea.”
This seems to be what Kelly’s lawyers were referencing when they wrote in their filing that herpes is “Not An Acute, Bacterial Venereal Disease.” But the NYSDOH’s 2017 statement seems to have been made regarding charging minors who spread HIV, and anyway wouldn’t be legally binding. Besides, the NYSDOH has a whole webpage full of STI fact sheets, where it specifically mentions herpes. It’s hard to see a judge buying the argument that it isn’t an STI, though as the trial moves forward, herpes may prove to be a sore spot.
Today, August 9th, jury selection began on R Kelly’s New York sex trafficking trial. The embattled singer has pleaded not guilty, and his time spent waiting has included jabs from health care officials as well as his fellow inmates. Last week, his lawyer said that Kelly is broke and needs new clothes after gaining weight. He is facing federal charges in New York and Illinois, and state indictments in Illinois and Minnesota. Earlier this month, a former associate of Kelly’s pleaded guilty of attempting to bribe a witness to not testify against the alleged sex criminal.