CHICAGO - Prosecutors are set to question R. Kelly’s former business manager Friday — an interrogation that is sure to test the calm demeanor projected by the star’s onetime accountant and confidant during his time on the stand so far.
Derrel McDavid already has spent two days on the witness stand, fielding questions from his lawyer about the more than two decades he spent as one of the singer’s most trusted associates, and, prosecutors say, played a key role in funneling money to women who said they had been sexually abused by the singer, and rounding up alleged sex tapes as the singer faced a 2008 trial in state court.
McDavid said that even as Kelly faced a wave of lawsuits and extortion attempts ahead of that trial, he believed in both the singer and the insight of Kelly’s top-notch team of lawyers and private investigators. Kelly was charged with filming a sex tape with a 14-year-old girl, but Kelly’s legal team assured McDavid the tape was fake, he testified Thursday.
McDavid said he believed them — and didn’t have reason to doubt the alleged victim when she and her parents also denied the allegations to child welfare investigators, police, prosecutors and a grand jury. Kelly was ultimately found not guilty.
McDavid was not alone in his faith in the R&B star, he pointed out. Despite longstanding rumors and the charges, artists like Jay-Z still wanted to collaborate with Kelly, and the three albums he released after his indictment were multi-platinum successes.
"R. Kelly was an icon. People grew up on his music and if they were still willing to believe in him, that was important," McDavid said. "If these allegations had been true, I would doubt that anybody would have bought his records."
But while most of McDavid’s testimony has largely seemed to support Kelly’s defense, at the end of the day Thursday, he also noted he had "learned a lot of things" during Kelly’s new trial in Chicago’s federal court. That included some of the incriminating videos a new jury has seen, and testimony from other witnesses.
"As I stand here today," McDavid told jurors, "I’m embarrassed."
Prosecution witnesses have cast McDavid as a key player in the conspiracy to cover up the singer’s abuse of multiple underage girls, handling payouts to Kelly hangers-on dispatched to gather incriminating tapes and to women who said they’d been abused. Lisa Van Allen, a Kelly ex-girlfriend who testified she was paid to return a sex tape she’d stolen from the singer, suggested McDavid threatened to have her killed.
Friday will mark the end of the fourth week of Kelly’s trial, now expected to carry over into the following week.
The singer already has been convicted on child trafficking and racketeering counts in federal court in New York, and has been sentenced to a 30-year prison term.