The second week of the R. Kelly sex-trafficking trial in New York City proved to be an exercise by prosecutors to paint the “I Believe I Can Fly” R&B star as a man-child control freak and a compulsive sex offender who exploited vulnerable victims way less than half his age while ordering them to call him “Daddy.”
The defense attorneys for Robert Sylvester Kelly (now 54 years old) countered by trying to portray them as lying opportunists who wanted to capitalize on Kelly’s fame.
Here are snapshots from week two of the case:
Two Kelly accusers, both testifying without revealing their true identities, said that at age 17 they sought his help launching their music careers, or those of others. They said Kelly only feigned an interest.
One of the jurors told Kelly that Kelly invited her and a friend into his studio to hear Kelly’s friend sing. She said that he lost patience quickly because he was not thrilled about her mom being there.
Kelly was a witness to another witness who claimed she had received formal training as an actor. She had a professionally produced music video for a song she wrote, called “Liar Liar.”
Kelly replied that he liked it, that it was cute, and that it wasn’t too grown-up or too sexy.
Prosecutors claim Kelly was lying. They claim that Kelly’s tutelage was just a scheme to exploit the girls and lead them down a path towards sexual degradation.
Kelly was asked by a prosecutor what steps she took to back up her promises to help her career launch.
She replied, “None.”
THE NOT-SO-MAGIC KINGDOM
Tom Arnold, a former employee of Kelly, detailed many of Kelly’s extreme tendencies in managing an empire that was headquartered in custom homes and music studios. Kelly’s entourage tried unsuccessfully to arrange a trip to Disney World in 2011, which included “female guests”.
Arnold was given the task of booking hotels, transport, and hiring a VIP guide to the theme park. He completed the first two tasks. The third task was not easy for him.
Arnold explained to the jury that Kelly had to have a guide when he visited the Magic Kingdom. This time, however, the only person who was available was a male. According to the witness, his boss abruptly cancelled the outing when he arrived and sent everyone home.
Arnold claimed that his wife noticed that his next paycheck — $1,500 — was cut by one week because of the “fine.” He said that he could not quit his job at Kelly.
He said, “At that time, I wasn’t happy, and my wife wasn’t happy, and Rob wasn’t happy.”
TUG OF WAR
A key accuser’s testimony focused on a tug-of-war between R. Kelly and her parents.
She testified that Kelly’s parents encouraged her to have a relationship with her and she even pitched her ideas for joint ventures. Cross-examination revealed that she had one idea to market a R. Kelly-themed toy. She said that even for him, it was too extreme.
Kelly believed in her later that it was impossible for him to do.
A complication for the woman was that, well before the trial, she had done an interview with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” where she expressed her devotion to Kelly and disavowed her parents. Her father was a manipulative liar, she said.
Kelly manipulated the woman’s statements to cover his tracks, she claimed on the witness stand.
She claimed that he had once “pulled out an Apple iPad” and told her to make a video claiming that her father had molested her.
One of the most dramatic moments of the week was when Assistant U.S. attorney Elizabeth Geddes attacked Kelly’s defense strategy of asking her about “all of the things that your parents did”. She then retorted with a series of relentless questions, each one overriding a defense objection. This was to refocus jurors attention on the most troubling allegations against Kelly.
They include: “Who exposed” you to a sexually transmitted illness without your consent, your family or the defendant? ” ” “Who made you record videos of yourself engaging in degrading behavior, such as smearing and eating feces and your parents?”
She replied in soft tones each time, “The defendant.”