The defense for R. Kelly and two co-defendants rested Friday at the R&B singer’s trial on charges of trial-fixing, child pornography and enticing minors for sex, with closing arguments and the start of jury deliberations scheduled for early next week.
Minutes before resting, Kelly co-defendant and ex-business manager Derrell McDavid ended three days on the stand. He testified for nearly two days that he had believed Kelly when he denied abusing minors — then said he started having doubts about Kelly’s believability during the trial that started last month.
Kelly and McDavid are charged with fixing Kelly’s 2008 state child pornography trial — at which Kelly was acquitted — by threatening witnesses and concealing video evidence. Both also face child pornography charges. A third co-defendant, Kelly associate Milton Brown, is accused of receiving child pornography.
Prosecutors normally get a chance 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 in his own behalf.
Kelly, 55, already was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June after a separate federal trial in New York.
Known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations of sexual misconduct began circulating in the 1990s. Widespread outrage emerged after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
During her cross-examination of McDavid, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng sought to cast doubt on his testimony that, all through the 2000s, he was unaware that the sexual abuse allegations might have some credence.
During Kelly’s monthlong trial in 2008, which McDavid attended, state prosecutors played a 30-minute, sexually explicit video dozens of times on large screens throughout the courtroom. Prosecutors said it showed Kelly abusing a 14-year-old girl, “Jane.”
McDavid initially said he looked away every time the video was played but later conceded that he “glanced back and forth” at it, though not long enough to fully assess the content. CBS Chicago reported McDavid testified he looked into the claims about “Jane” by speaking with Kelly and his attorney and did not start paying more attention to Kelly’s contact with Jane.
Appenteng also questioned McDavid about his claim that he wasn’t at a 2001 hotel room meeting with Jane and her parents, where government witnesses said Kelly admitted having sex with Jane, who regarded Kelly as her godfather.
McDavid testified that he drove to the hotel but remained outside in his car. “It was delicate,” he added.
“It was delicate,” the prosecutor shot back, “because Kelly admits (at the meeting) … he is having sex with his goddaughter.”
Prosecutors pressed McDavid on if he believed Kelly’s accusers were lying because they were asking for money, CBS Chicago reported, but McDavid said that was not the only reason. McDavid also denied those lawsuits were settled to protect Kelly and his own income, though he acknowledged the victims’ claims could have severely damaged Kelly’s career.
On Thursday, McDavid also denied intimidating anyone leading up to the 2008 trial. His lawyer asked if he ever threatened to kill Kelly’s ex-girlfriend Lisa Van Allen for having stolen a sex video from Kelly and for not being forthcoming about it, as she testified earlier.
“I’m an accountant. No,” he said.
At times, 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 insistence in the 2000s that he never sexually abused minors.
Asked by his own lawyer, Beau Brindley, if he was in “a different position” to assess allegations against Kelly after sitting through government testimony by four Kelly accusers, including Jane, McDavid responded: “Yes, I am.”
“The last (few) weeks … I’ve learned a lot … that I had no idea about in 2008,” added McDavid, who previously had testified that he once saw Kelly as a son.
McDavid’s testimony could lend credence to the charges Kelly alone faces — five counts of enticing minor girls for sex, one count each 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 conflict at a joint trial.
The ongoing trial in Kelly’s hometown is, in ways, a do-over of the 2008 trial. The single video was at the heart of that trial and is also in evidence at the current trial.
Jane, then an adult, did not testify at that 2008 trial, which jurors cited as a reason they couldn’t convict Kelly. She testified at the current trial that she was the person in that video. She also said Kelly sexually abused her hundreds of times starting when she was 14.
CBS Chicago reported “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 started when she was 14, she said in court. Another accuser, “Tracy,” testified Kelly started a sexual relationship with her when she was 14, and she had sex with Kelly that sometimes involved other people more than 50 times when she was 17 and 18.