‘I’m embarrassed’: R. Kelly’s ex-business manager pulls U-turn, says he ‘learned a lot’ at trial
Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean objected to Derrel McDavid’s “theatrics.” McDavid took off his glasses, wiped away tears, and said, “this is not theatrics, ma’am.”
By the end of his first day-and-a-half testifying in his own defense, R. Kelly’s onetime business manager had shared plenty of information with a federal jury that seemed helpful not only to himself, but to his former boss.
Derrel McDavid derided key prosecution witnesses. He insisted he thought the video at the center of Kelly’s 2008 trial was a fake. And he choked up when he recalled how jurors in that 2008 trial acquitted Kelly — reaching what McDavid then thought was the right decision.
Then, McDavid pulled a U-turn. He said he “learned a lot of things” during Kelly’s new trial in Chicago’s federal court, now in its fourth week. He said he’d never before seen incriminating videos a new jury has seen. And he said he’d never before heard some of the testimony they’ve heard.
“As I stand here today,” McDavid told jurors, “I’m embarrassed.”
Full coverage of R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago:
- Follow the latest stories from the trial.
- Read more about why this trial is happening in the wake of Kelly’s New York sentence and how it connects to his 2008 Chicago trial.
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- Read through the Sun-Times’ original reporting on Kelly, including the story that led to the singer’s first indictment in 2002.
He then began to struggle with his emotions again, telling his attorney, Beau Brindley, that he wanted to believe Kelly in the early 2000s because “I love him, and I believed in him. He was a genius.”
That’s when Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean interrupted, objecting to McDavid’s “theatrics.” McDavid took off his glasses, wiped away tears, and said, “this is not theatrics, ma’am.”
Still, it was the dramatic climax in the marathon testimony of McDavid, now a co-defendant of Kelly’s, who, along with the singer, is charged with illegally trying to thwart Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial.
Absent from McDavid’s testimony has been additional context involving the late singer Aaliyah Haughton, who Kelly married in 1994 when she was 15 and he was 27. Though McDavid insisted he had no reason in the 2000s to believe Kelly sexually abused underage girls, testimony in Kelly’s trial last year in New York showed that McDavid was involved in the bribery of a “welfare office” worker to obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah so Kelly could marry her.
Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Prosecutors argued early Thursday that the door to testimony about Aaliyah “has been opened wide” by McDavid’s testimony. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled they could not go into it, finding it too prejudicial to Kelly.
Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine McDavid on Friday.
Kelly faces charges in this trial alleging child pornography, obstruction of justice and the enticement of minors into criminal sexual activity. He is already serving a 30-year prison sentence after his conviction in New York.
Before telling jurors he was “embarrassed” by what he’d learned in the current Chicago trial, McDavid recalled the preparations and proceedings around Kelly’s 2008 trial. He also floated a theory trumpeted by Kelly’s defense attorneys in 2008.
McDavid said that Kelly’s then-criminal defense attorney Ed Genson showed him enhanced snippets of the central video in the 2008 trial, which allegedly depicted Kelly sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. That tape is also at issue in Kelly’s current trial.
Kelly has a distinctive mole on his back, McDavid told jurors. But on the video Genson showed him, McDavid said the mole “jumped all over.” McDavid said that had him “totally convinced” the video was a fake.
McDavid said Lisa Van Allen, a former Kelly girlfriend and longtime accuser who testified in the current trial, was caught in “lie after lie after lie” when she testified in 2008. McDavid denied that he told her she should have been killed, as she has alleged.
McDavid said another key witness in the current trial, Charles Freeman, threatened to call a press conference during the 2008 trial unless he was paid $100,000. McDavid said he at one point told Freeman “he was a rotten piece of sh--.”
He also noted that the woman who allegedly appeared in the video from the 2008 trial, known to the current jury as “Jane,” denied for years that she’d been sexually abused by Kelly. She testified last month, for the first time, that the video from the 2008 trial depicted Kelly sexually abusing her.
McDavid told the jury that he never heard Jane make such a claim in the years when Kelly faced prosecution in the 2000s. He said he hadn’t seen two additional videos, viewed by the current jury, that also allegedly depict Kelly’s abuse of Jane. And he said he hadn’t heard the stories of three other alleged victims who have testified, referred to in court as “Pauline,” “Tracy” and “Nia.”
McDavid said he’d “learned a lot of things.”
“Before this trial, all I knew is what I knew then,” McDavid said.