A federal judge in Chicago has barred lawyers from divulging new evidence in R Kelly’s child pornography case.

The singer’s lawyers objected to the protective order Judge Harry Leinenweber approved during a hearing in US District Court, saying it would prevent them from responding to comments by accusers characterising any evidence.

Read: R Kelly must be held in jail without bond, judge rules

Defence lawyer Michael Leonard complained that potential witnesses are appearing on TV shows and in documentaries, “tainting” any future jury pool and that Kelly’s legal team should be able to counteract that.

But prosecutor Angel Krull said four out of five victims who could give evidence have never spoken publicly.

“The vast majority of our evidence has never seen the light of day,” she told the court.

Kelly is jailed on charges that also include coercing minors to engage in sex. Marshals are transporting him to New York for an arraignment on Friday on related charges. He did not attend Wednesday’s hearing.

Leinenweber’s order is not a gag on all comments by lawyers. They just cannot speak about evidence not yet made public. He told defence lawyers they can always ask him for permission to comment publicly on new evidence if Kelly accusers or their spokesmen comment on it in the press.

The judge also said he would like to aim for an April 2020 trial. He said he would like to fix a day during the next status hearing on September 4.

The judge revealed last week that before his assignment to the case this month he had not heard of Kelly, whose hits include I Believe I Can Fly.

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