Several key witnesses against Mr Kelly, who is at trial in Brooklyn, still appear to be loyal to the singer – but his accounts seem to confirm the charges against him.
R Kelly and one of his assistants were in a Chicago park a few years before their 2019 arrest, when the singer asked assistant Diana Copeland why she didn’t take action to stop one of her girlfriends from packing her suitcase and leaving her home . .
Why, he wanted to know if Ms. Copeland “let the woman run away?”
This single word in Ms Copeland’s testimony at Mr Kelly’s trial on Friday served as a scathing echo after strong testimony from accusers who said Mr Kelly sexually and physically abused her, imprisoned her and raped her. did. But alongside those allegations, employees like Ms Copeland – who worked for Mr Kelly for nearly 15 years and was the fifth former employee to take a stand against the R&B star – are at the center of the racketeering case against him. .
The testimony of former employees goes to the heart of the government’s argument that Mr. Kelly was not only a stalker but also the mastermind of a decades-old conspiracy that used his stardom to hunt down the conveyor belts of women, men and women. Was. Kishore, over whom he controlled.
In her testimony, Ms Copeland described the bizarre length with which Mr Kelly went to control women in her area – with Uber drivers she allowed them to ride. If a man pulled over, he said, “I’ll have to make another call”—until a female driver showed up. Another woman testified that Ms Copeland accompanied her to test for sexually transmitted diseases and then withheld her test results. (Several women have testified that Mr. Kelly gave her herpes intentionally.)
In a case involving stories of his encounters with six women over several decades, Mr. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been charged with one count of racketeering and eight breaches of anti-sex-trafficking law. Honor Act. The top charge, famous for catching mobsters, enables prosecutors to present evidence of possible crimes – such as Mr Kelly’s illicit marriage to 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994 – that would usually be too old for consideration at trial.
But such a case hinges on former employees who testify at the center of a criminal enterprise that Mr. Kelly’s defense attorneys have described as only the layoffs of a successful music empire.
Jeffrey Lichtman, an attorney who has represented El Chapo and the Gambino family’s John A. Gotti Jr. in federal cases accusing him of leading criminal enterprises, calling the case against the singer “highly unusual.”
“To convict a mob boss, they get allies and force the men to turn over,” Lichtman said of prosecutors. “But now, this venture consists of his employees who did R. Kelly’s bidding: getting him girls and helping him control them.”
The use of testimony from former government employees, one of whom received court-ordered compensation for his time on the stand, is expected to validate the stories of his accusers, whose encounters and occasional relationship with the singer Filled with messy, conflicting details.
At times, these employees, some of whom still seemed loyal to the singer and were called to testify, have corroborated the testimony of the accusers, acknowledging many of the strict rules to be followed. Women were created for, and they tolerated the abuse they suffered.
An employee, Tom Arnold, who worked for the singer for nearly eight years until 2011, told the jury during the second week of the trial that he and others working for the singer were working for Mr. Was engaged in such a splendid effort. Kelly that he typed and printed the singer’s phone number on slips of paper to hand out at malls, concerts and parties.
After integrating those women into his wider circle, Mr. Kelly limited his girlfriends’ interactions with other men to such an extent that Ms. Copeland said the singer once took her salary simply because she took one of them. Appointments at a nail salon were scheduled for two. where a man went to work.
Mr Kelly instructed the women to turn away from other men in stores and elevators, Ms Copeland said, noting that she once accidentally left a live-in girlfriend on the elevator after the woman returned her to the door. when a man had boarded and did not see Ms. Copeland descend.
The wife of women who lived with Mr Kelly “wasn’t free to roam the house,” said Ms Copeland, adding that as a female employee she was able to move on, but that freedom came with strings attached: the singer had to knock her over. Instructed on the walls as she moved from room to room “to make sure I announce my presence.”
During the cross-examination, Ms Copeland said that some women in Mr Kelly’s life had come and gone of their own accord, and that one of Mr Kelly’s defense attorneys, Devereaux L. Caniks enjoy their “exotic lifestyle”—which includes extravagant parties, exotic pet trips, and gifts.
Ms Copeland also suggested that some of the rules – such as knocking on doors before entering – were not the result of Mr Kelly’s attempts to control people for sex, but simply his own peccadillos. For example, she said that “everyone”—not just her live-in girlfriends—was required to knock on the door before entering. That rule, she said, was created by Mr. Kelly’s then-wife, Andrea Lee. Ms. Lee and Mr. Kelly, who have three children together, divorced in 2009.
Ms Copeland said that despite several arguments for quitting her job at times, she eventually returned to work several times because of concern for the singer.
Understand the R. Kelly Trial
What are the charges? Mr Kelly faces one charge of racketeering based on child sexual abuse, kidnapping and forced labor, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking anyone across state lines for prostitution.
“I realized he didn’t have reliable employees,” Ms Copeland said.
She said Mr Kelly had no control over his bank account, “had no idea where his royalties were going,” and didn’t even know his Social Security number. She said that during her stint with Mr. Kelly, she discovered that the singer, who had coined her lyrics in her mind, had trouble reading and writing.
Ultimately, despite her concerns for the singer’s well-being, Ms Copeland quit working for Mr Kelly in April 2018, she said. And in 2019, the same year that Mr. Kelly was arrested, she met him one last time at his Chicago apartment in Trump Tower, where another woman, who testified under a pseudonym at the start of the trial, told me To wear a dress,” said Ms Copeland, “she asked me if I was wired – if I had some sort of instrument that would record.”
She said she was shocked by the implication, but took off her tank top and put on the robe.
Mapping the landscape of Mr. Kelly’s workplace culture over the decades, the five employees who have testified so far describe working for the singer in words that transcend the normal demands of a prodigy—ever. -Sometimes noting that he has broken the law to help Mr.’s convenience. Kelly’s conversation with underage girls.
“It was almost like the Twilight Zone,” Anthony Navarro, a former runner who worked for the singer for some two years, told the jury on the third day of the trial. “You went to the gate, and it was like a different world, just a strange place.”
For Demetrius Smith, who worked as the singer’s tour manager early in her career, being part of Mr. Kelly’s world included helping secure a false identity record for Aaliyah, who was 15 years old at the time. And whom Mr. Kelly believed she was pregnant with. Children, according to court testimony.
Mr Smith, who was called to testify in two days leading up to the start of the trial, said that while he did not agree to the illicit marriage, he sought to help make it work to remain in the singer’s good qualities. felt the pressure. And, he said, he feared that if he didn’t contribute to the plan, “I felt like I’d be thrown out of the loop.”
During testimony two days into the third week of the trial, one of the singer’s personal assistants, Suzette Mayweather, who described herself on the stand as a longtime friend of Mr. Kelly, said that the women in her class were controlling. His desire to do so made him suspect that he sometimes used violence to impose his will. (Ms. Mayweather said she had never seen Mr. Kelly hitting anyone, but she had once heard a slap-like sound and another woman showed her there were scars to be beaten up by her.)
Once, after talking with a girlfriend of Mr. Kelly about the singer, his children, and his own aspirations as a writer, Ms. Mayweather said that Mr. Kelly told him about the conversation, which he told the jury. Told another woman. Always took the initiative.
But when Kelly interrogated her in his studio that day, Mayweather said, he lied to her, taking responsibility for initiating prohibited conversations for fear of the woman’s safety.
“I had never seen Rob so upset, and that was not his tone,” she said. “It was the look in his eyes.”
troy clausen And Rebecca Davis O’Brien Contributed reporting.