The defense of R. Kelly and two co-defendants rested Friday during the R&B singer’s trial on charges of trial fixing, child pornography and seducing minors for sex, with closing arguments and the beginning of jury deliberations scheduled for early next week.
Minutes before halftime, Kelly co-defendant and ex-business manager Derrell McDavid ended up in the stands for three days. He testified for nearly two days that he believed Kelly when he denied he abused minors — then said he began to question Kelly’s credibility during the trial that began last month.
Kelly and McDavid are accused of solving Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial – in which Kelly was acquitted – by threatening witnesses and hiding video evidence. Both are also accused of child pornography. A third co-defendant, Kelly employee Milton Brown, is accused of receiving child pornography.
Prosecutors are normally given the opportunity to call witnesses in a rebuttal of the defense case. But when they told Judge Harry Leinenweber on Friday that they needed some time to prepare, he said there would be no rebuttal and the case would go straight to closing arguments Monday morning.
McDavid was the only one of the three defendants to testify on his behalf.
Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June after a separate federal trial in New York.
Known for his big hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and sex-infused songs like “Bump n’ Grind,” Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations of sexual misconduct made the rounds in the 1990s. Widespread outcry arose after the #MeToo settlement and the 2019 docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly’.
During her cross-examination of McDavid, prosecutor Jeannice Appeneng attempted to question his testimony that during the 2000s he was unaware that the sexual abuse allegations might have any credibility.
During Kelly’s months-long trial in 2008, which McDavid attended, prosecutors played a 30-minute sexually explicit video dozens of times on large courtroom screens. Prosecutors said it showed Kelly abusing a 14-year-old girl, “Jane.”
McDavid initially said he looked away every time the video played, but later admitted to “looking back and forth,” though not long enough to fully assess the content.McDavid testified that he investigated the “Jane” claims by talking to Kelly and his attorney and began to pay no more attention to Kelly’s contact with Jane.
Appeneng also questioned McDavid about his claim that he was not at a hotel room meeting with Jane and her parents in 2001, where government witnesses said Kelly admitted to having sex with Jane, whom Kelly considered her godfather.
McDavid testified that he drove to the hotel but stayed outside in his car. “It was delicate,” he added.
“It was delicate,” the prosecutor retorted, “because Kelly admits (at the meeting) … that he has sex with his goddaughter.”
Prosecutors pressured McDavid if he believed Kelly’s accusers lied because they asked for money, CBS Chicago reported, but McDavid said that wasn’t the only reason. McDavid also denied that those lawsuits were settled to protect Kelly and his own income, though he acknowledged that the victims’ claims could have seriously damaged Kelly’s career.
On Thursday, McDavid also denied harassing anyone in the run-up to the 2008 trial. His attorney asked if he had ever threatened to kill Kelly’s ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen for stealing a sex video from Kelly and not talking about it, as she testified before.
‘I’m an accountant. No,’ he said.
Sometimes McDavid sounded more like a government witness.
In a sudden shift at the end of his second day of testimony Thursday, he expressed doubts about Kelly’s 2000s insistence that he never sexually abused minors.
When asked by his own attorney, Beau Brindley, if he was in “another position” to review allegations against Kelly after reviewing government statements by four Kelly prosecutors, including Jane, McDavid replied: “Yes, I am. I.”
“The last (few) weeks…I’ve learned a lot…that I had no idea about in 2008,” added McDavid, who had previously testified that he once saw Kelly as a son.
McDavid’s testimony could lend credence to the allegations that concern Kelly alone — five counts of seducing underage girls for sex, one count for five accusers.
Judge Leinenweber repeatedly rejected requests from Kelly’s defense team that he be tried alone because his and McDavid’s interests would clash in a joint trial.
The ongoing trial in Kelly’s hometown is, in a sense, a repeat of the 2008 trial. The single video was at the heart of that process and is also present in the current trial.
Jane, then an adult, did not testify at that trial in 2008, which jurors cited as the reason they couldn’t convict Kelly. Shethat she was the person in that video. She also said Kelly sexually assaulted her hundreds of times, starting when she was 14.
CBS Chicago reported that “Jane” said some sex acts started when she was 14 and vaginal sex when she was 15. Threesomes with Kelly and at least two other of his accusers, referred to in court as “Pinky” and “Brittany” also began when she was 14, she said in court. Another prosecutor,started a sexual relationship with her when she was 14, and she had sex with Kelly sometimes involving other people more than 50 times when she was 17 and 18.