Several key witnesses against Mr. Kelly , who is on trial in Brooklyn, still seem loyal to the singer - but their accounts seem to corroborate the charges against him.
R. Kelly and one of her assistants were in a park in Chicago a few years before her arrest in 2019 when the singer asked assistant Diana Copeland why she hadn't acted to prevent one of his girlfriends to pack her suitcase and leave her home.
Why, did he want to know, Mrs. Copeland had ellet the woman "escape?
This single word of Ms. Copeland's testimony at Mr. Kelly's trial on Friday echoed after hours of startling testimony from accusers who have stated that Mr. Kelly sexually and physically assaulted them , imprisoned and raped them. But along with these accusers, employees like Ms Copeland - who worked intermittently for Mr Kelly for around 15 years and was the fifth former employee to take a stand against the R&B star - are at the center of the racketeering affair. against him. .
The testimonies of former employees go to the heart of the government's claim that Mr. Kelly was not only a predator, but also the ringleader of many decades -long plot that used his fame for prey on a conveyor belt of women, men and teenagers, on wh om he precise wilt control .
In In her testimony, Ms. Copeland described the bizarre efforts of Mr. Kelly control women in your sphere - until The Uber drivers with whom he had them allowed to drive. If a man stopped she would say, "I should call another" - until a female driver appeared. Another woman testified that MmCopeland had accompanied her to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and then withheld the results of her test. (Several women testified that Mr. Kelly knowingly gave them herpes .)
In a deep-rooted case by the accounts of his meetings with six women over decades , Mr. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is charged with one count of racketeering and eight violations of a sex trafficking law known as the Mann Law. Main charge, made famous for catching Mafiosi, allows prosecutors to present evidence of potential crimes - like Mr. Kelly's illicit marriage with a 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994 - that would normally be too old for trial consideration.
But such a case depends on former employees testifying from the core of a criminal enterprise swelling far beyond the bounds of what Mr. Kelly's defense attorneys have described as mere linings of a thriving musical empire.
Jeffrey Lichtman , a lawyer who has represented El Chapo and successfully defended John A. Gotti Jr. of the Gambino family in federal cases in which they were accused of directing the crime of inal enterprises, called the case against the singer of "very unusual ". Mr Lichtman told prosecutors. "But now this company consists of its employees who made R. Kelly's offer: find him girls and help him control them." "
The government 's use of testimony from former employees, one of whom received legal compensation for his stint at the bar , should validate the stories of his accusers, whose meetings and relations with the singer are sometimes strewn with messy and contradictory details.
Sometimes these employees, including some always seemedloyal to the singer and were subpoenaed to testify, corroborated the testimony of the accusers, acknowledging the many, strict rules women were made to follow, and the abuse they say they have suffered .
An employee, Tom Arnold, who worked for the singer for about eight years until 2011, told the jury during the second week of the trial that he and others working for the singer were engaged in such a prolific attempt to secure young women for Mr. Kelly that they typed and printed the singer's phone numberr on slips of paper to hand out at malls, concerts and afterparties.
After these women were incorporated into her large circle, Mr Kelly limited his girlfriends interactive with other men to such an extent that Ms Copeland said the singer had already deducted her salary simply because she had scheduled dates for two of her. 'between them in a nail salon where a man was working.
Mr. Kelly ordered women to turn away from other men in shops and elevators, Ms Copeland said, noting that she accidentally left a girlfriend at home in an elevator because the woman had her back turned to her when 'A man got on board and didn ' t See Mrs. Copeland get off.
The multitude of women living with Mr. Kelly didn 't were "not free to walk aroundhome, "Ms Copeland said, adding that as an employee she could move around, but that freedom came with strings: the singer asked her to knock on the walls as she moved from room to room "to make sure that I have announced my presence".
During cross-examination, Ms Copeland stated that some of the women in Mr Kelly's life c I went and went as they pleased, and I appreciated what one of Mr Kelly's defense attorneys, Deveraux L. Cannick, called her "exotic way of life" - including extravagant parties, travel, and exotic animal gifts.
Ms. Copeland also suggested that some of the rules - like knocking on doors before entering - were not the result of Mr Kelly's attempts to control people for sexual purposes, but were simply his own peccadilloes. For examplee, she said that "everyone" - not just her girlfriends at home - was required to knock on doors before entering. This rule, she said, was created by Mr. Kelly's wife, Andrea Lee. Ms. Lee and Mr. Kelly, who have three children together,
Ms. Copeland said that despite a host of arguments that led her to quit her job multiple times, she eventually returned to work for the singer on several occasions out of concern for him.
Understanding the R. Kelly trial Card 1 of 4
What are the fees? Mr. Kelly faces an accusation of racketeering bassaulted on sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting anyone across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
Who testifies? The trial gathers around six women , several of whom should testify. Prosecutors say the singer physically and psychologically abused many of them and controlled many aspects of their lives, including when they could eat and use the toilet. At least three were minors.
His marriage to Aaliyah. Part of the case concerns R. Kelly's marriage to singer Aaliyah, who had15 years old when they married in 1994. Mr Kelly's former tour manager said R. Kelly bribed a government employee in 1994 so he could get a fake coin. identity for her.
The 2008 trial. The artist was acquitted in a high-profile criminal case brought against him on child pornography charges in 2008. The trial centered on a videotape which prosecutors said showed R. Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. She refused to testify. Here is a complete timeline of the allegations .
"I felt like he didn't have any trustworthy employees," Ms. Copeland said.
She stated that Mr. Kelly had no control over his bank account, "had no idea where his royalties were going " and did not even know his own social security. number. She said that during her tenure with Mr. Kelly, she learned that the singer, who created his songs in his head, had difficulty reading and writing.
In the end, despite his concerns aboutFor the singer's welfare, Ms Copeland ceased working for Mr Kelly for good in April 2018, she said. And sometime in 2019, the same year Mr. Kelly was arrested, she met him one last time at her Chicago apartment at Trump Tower, where another woman, who testified under a pseudonym at At the start of the trial, "gave me a dress to put on, " Ms Copeland said, adding: "She asked me if I was wired - if I had some kind of device that would record. "
She said she was shocked at the involvement, but stripped down to her tank top and donned the bathrobe.
Creating a landscape of Mr. Kelly's corporate culture terms that far exceed the ordinary demands of an eccentric artist - sometimes noting that they broke the law to help facilitate Mr. Kelly's interactions with underage girls.
"It was almost like the Twilight Zone," Anthony Navarro, a former runner who worked for the singer for about two years, told the jury on the third day of the trial. "You walked in the door, and it 's like a different world, just a strange place.
To Demetrius Smith, who worked as the singer's tour director early in his career, being a part of Mr. Kelly 's world consisted of helping him secure fake IDs for Aaliyah , who was then 15 years old and that Mr. Kelly believed pregnant with his child, according to testimonyin court.
Mr. Smith, who was subpoenaed to testify for two days near the start of the trial, said that while he disagreed with the illegal marriage, he felt obligated to help her out. make it work in order to stay in the good graces of the singer. And, he said, he was worried that if he didn't contribute to the plan, "I felt like I was going to be knocked out.
On two days of testimony during the third week of the trial, Suzette Mayweather, another of the singer 's personal assistants who described herself on the stand as Mr Kelly's longtime friend, said his desire to control the women in his orbit made her suspect that he had occasionally used violence to impose his will. (Ms Mayweather said she had never seen Mr Kelly hit anyone, but had heard what sounded like a gifle and another woman showed him the marks he had received when he
Once, After speaking with one of Mr Kelly's girlfriends about her relationship with the singer, her children and her own aspirations as a writer, Ms Mayweather said Mr Kelly grilled her about conversations, which she told the jury that the other woman had always initiated.
But when Mr. Kelly questioned her in her studio that day, Ms Mayweather said, she lied to him, taking responsibility for starting the forbidden conversations, after fearing for the woman's safety.
" I had never seen Rob so upset, and that wasn 't his tone "she said. "It was the look in his eyes.
Troy Closson and Rebecca Davis O 'Brien contributed to the reports.