At first, the defense witness who testified in the trial of R. Kelly, the R&B superstar who has faced charges of sexual misconduct for years, said on Monday that he had never seen the singer hanging out with underage girls.
But the witness Larry Hood, Mr. Kelly’s childhood friend and former Chicago police officer, later admitted that he was present when Mr. Kelly first met R&B singer Aaliyah, with whom Mr. Kelly. is accused of having had sex when she was 13 or 14 years old.
The defense case began on Monday after five weeks of testimony which included 11 accusers, six of whom said they were minors when their sex with the singer began.
Prosecutors sought to prove that the singer’s public image as an attractive lyricist and charismatic performer served to disguise and enable a predator who applied stifling rules to women in his orbit and dealt punches when those rules were broken.
Women have described being raped, jailed, drugged and forced to have abortions by Mr. Kelly and his subordinates. An accuser, who said he had been treated by Mr Kelly since he was 17, testified that he was brainwashed by the singer.
Mr Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is charged with one count of racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Law, which prohibits the transport of people through the state borders for sexual purposes. Mr. Kelly, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, also faces a federal trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction charges, in addition to state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
In cross-examining prosecution witnesses, Mr Kelly’s defense team of four lawyers have often sought to portray their accusers as jealous fans who became angry when they fell out of favor with the singers. But as his defense began on Monday, his lawyers proposed two witnesses who said they had never seen anything disturbing in years of close contact with Mr Kelly.
Mr Hood, who left the police in good standing in 2007 despite pleading guilty to falsification, said he had no reason to believe Mr Kelly had behaved inappropriately towards women or girls.
As a police officer, I should have taken action against this, Mr Hood said. I never had to do anything. I have never been made aware of any wrongdoing.
But during cross-examination by the prosecution, Mr. Hood described a world in which Mr. Kelly surrounded himself with girls including Aaliyah and a group of hyped Aaliyah little girls. One of them, a woman identified in court as Angela, told the jury last week that she started having sex with Mr Kelly as a teenager and saw him once perform a sex act on Aaliyah around 1993, making Aaliyah the youngest girl Mr. Kelly is accused of sexually abusing.
I was not checking ID at the studio, Mr Hood said, and added that it was only later in life that he learned that his friends were marrying Aaliyah, 15, in August. 1994.
Another defense witness, Dhanai Ramnanan, described himself as an aspiring singer who worked in the studio with Mr Kelly for some fifteen years. He described Mr. Kelly as a mentor to me and a good friend, and said he had never seen Mr. Kelly verbally assault or hit a woman, or forbid her to eat or use the toilet every day. charges laid in the first five weeks of the trial.
Every time we went to a restaurant they would sit down first, they order first, they ate first, he said of Mr. Kelly’s girlfriends. I mean, chivalry, basically.
As the trial draws to a close, Judge Ann M. Donnelly has said she expects the jury to begin their deliberations by the end of the week. Lawyers for Mr Kellys also offered a list of several additional witnesses they could call, including an investigator, an accountant and a friend of Jerhonda Pace, Mr Kelly’s first accuser at trial. Mr. Kelly was not on the list.
Understanding the R. Kelly trial
What are the fees? Mr Kelly faces one charge of racketeering based on the sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting anyone across borders state for the purpose of prostitution.
Testifying in his own defense would represent a potentially perilous strategy for Mr. Kelly. After facing a new legal review in 2019, Mr Kelly lost his temper in a widely viewed interview with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King, leaping from his chair and slapping his chest on camera.
During their cross-examination of witnesses, Mr Kelly’s defense team focused on challenging the basis for the racketeering charge itself, arguing that the description of the prosecution of a large illicit organization is wrong and that the singer was running nothing more than a music business. They also sought to persuade jurors that his accusers had consensual sex with him and then fabricated their accounts of abuse and misconduct, focusing on minor changes in certain aspects of their stories over time and on the willingness of some to interact with Mr. Kelly for years. .
The defense will aim to advance that portrayal, by portraying Mr Kelly as a generous romantic partner who has treated the women around him like family and has been blinded by their claims.
The image contrasts sharply with the one painted during the government affair, built around the accounts of five women: Jerhonda Pace, Stephanie, Faith, Sonja and a woman who testified under a pseudonym. Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash two decades ago, and her brief illegal marriage to Mr Kelly in 1994 are also at the heart of the government’s business. The charges are said to be generally too old to prosecute, but the racketeering charge gives the government more flexibility.
In the context of the MeToo movement, the trial marks the first time that accusers have taken a stand against Mr Kelly, despite a string of accusations spanning decades. And at a critical time for the movement, it is also the first time that a majority of accusers have been black women in such a high-profile case.
Dawn Mr. Hughes, an expert in clinical and forensic psychology who testified last week and Monday as the prosecution’s final witness, aimed to help jurors relate pieces of witness accounts with a broader understanding of the long-lasting impacts term of abuse and how they can mix. memories of the accusers forcing them to act in ways that may later seem spurious.
Recalling the biblical story of David and Goliath, Ms. Hughes said speaking against a celebrity, like Mr. Kelly, is made more difficult by his wealth of resources and a protective community isolating him from criticism. Now this community is at the center of the case against Mr. Kelly.
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