'Rob's rules.' Witnesses testify about how R. Kelly controlled those in his orbit

Entertainment

CNN 22 August, 2021 - 06:56am 23 views

Updated 12:07 PM ET, Sat August 21, 2021

CNN's Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

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Testimony describes R. Kelly's marriage to Aaliyah

PIX11 News 22 August, 2021 - 04:40am

The third day of Mr. Kelly’s trial focused on his 1994 marriage to the singer, which prompted early scrutiny of his dealings with underage girls.

The R&B artist R. Kelly was minutes from taking the stage at a concert in 1994 when he got some unsettling news: A teenage girl might be carrying his child, one of the entertainer’s former tour managers testified on Friday.

The girl was Aaliyah, one of the most celebrated music stars of the 1990s. Her marriage to Mr. Kelly prompted the first significant scrutiny of his encounters with underage girls.

“Aaliyah’s in trouble man,” the manager, Demetrius Smith, recalled Mr. Kelly telling him during the third day of the singer’s trial. “We need to get home.”

Mr. Kelly’s accountant, Mr. Smith said, suggested a complex scheme: To avoid potential prosecution for statutory rape, Mr. Kelly, who was 27, could marry the young recording artist.

“I told him that he couldn’t marry Aaliyah. She was too young,” Mr. Smith testified, adding that “he asked me whose side I was on.”

In the days that followed, Mr. Smith said, Mr. Kelly and his inner circle carried out the plot. Mr. Smith, 65, said he bribed an Illinois government employee to obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. The group went to a hotel and called around to find a minister, who married the couple there.

The details of the marriage came at the end of the opening week of Mr. Kelly’s long-awaited criminal trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He faces one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.

Mr. Kelly, 54, has denied all of the accusations.

On Friday, Mr. Smith, who said he had stopped working for Mr. Kelly shortly after the marriage scheme was concocted, outlined Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah’s time together. He described their first meeting at her family home in Michigan in 1992, how the relationship continued through the recording and release of her debut album and then the evening on tour that led to their illegal union.

Mr. Smith testified that on the night in 1994 that preceded the illicit marriage, Mr. Kelly asked him to arrange an unplanned, round-trip flight to Illinois because of an issue related to Aaliyah.

Mr. Smith said that he was surprised by what he viewed as an unusual request — coming midway through a tour and minutes before Mr. Kelly was to take the stage — and that he suggested contacting Barry Hankerson, Mr. Kelly’s manager and Aaliyah’s uncle. Mr. Hankerson had introduced the two.

But Mr. Kelly said it “was deeper than that” and not to call Mr. Hankerson, Mr. Smith said.

On the flight, Mr. Smith testified, Mr. Kelly was quiet and cried at one point. Eventually, Mr. Smith added, the full story was revealed: “‘Aaliyah, man. She thinks she’s pregnant,’” Mr. Smith recalled Mr. Kelly telling him. “It was a shock.”

Mr. Smith said that he, Aaliyah, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Kelly’s accountant firmed up the details of their plan at a Sheraton hotel in the Chicago suburbs. Mr. Smith, who said he had disagreed with the plot but feared being shut out of conversations, testified that he told the others that he knew an employee at a nearby government office who he believed would be receptive to a $500 bribe.

Mr. Smith said that he and Aaliyah drove to the office, and as Mr. Kelly waited in the car, the group obtained the ID that was used to get the marriage license.

Mr. Smith will continue his testimony, including under cross-examination by Mr. Kelly’s lawyers, when the trial resumes on Monday.

Potentially criminal activity that dates to the early 1990s would normally fall outside the statute of limitations. But the racketeering charge, which presents Mr. Kelly as the ringleader of a decades-long, criminal scheme to recruit women and underage girls for sex, allows prosecutors to introduce evidence from any time within when the alleged conspiracy occurred.

Other witnesses at the trial are expected to testify about Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah’s interactions. He began working with her around 1992, when she was 12, prosecutors said this week, and initiated a sexual relationship with her shortly after that.

One witness is expected to testify that she observed their sexual contact, around the time Aaliyah was 13. And prosecutors say a second woman, who is one of the accusers at the center of the case against Mr. Kelly, will tell jurors he once admitted to her that he married Aaliyah because he believed she was pregnant and was seeking legal protection against her possible testimony.

Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, died in 2001 in a plane crash at 22. She has been identified in court documents as Jane Doe No. 1. Mr. Smith, who first met Mr. Kelly in 1985, said he had cause for concern early on. Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah were often alone together at his recording studio and at his apartment, Mr. Smith said, sometimes for up to an hour. At first, Mr. Smith said, it appeared to be related to music, and he gave it little thought.

But as the weeks and months passed, Mr. Smith said, some of the interactions made him uneasy.

“At times, I was concerned,” he testified. On at least one occasion, Mr. Smith said, their behavior had prompted him to ask, “Robert, you ain’t messing with Aaliyah?”

He said he meant “flirting, being flirtatious. Seducing her.”

Mr. Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah brought attention to his relationships and dealings with women more than two decades ago after Vibe magazine reported on the marriage license, which listed her age as 18.

“This was, of course, a huge problem for him,” Maria Cruz Melendez, one of the prosecutors, said during an opening statement. “If she was pregnant, that meant there would be questions: At the very top of that list of questions — who is the father of that baby?”

Aaliyah was 14 when she released her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” which Mr. Kelly produced. Her music, which had long been unavailable on streaming platforms amid legal disputes, was released on Friday.

Outside the jury’s presence on Friday, Mr. Smith said he had intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to testify.

“I don’t want to be here, period,” he told Judge Ann M. Donnelly, adding that he was uncomfortable with discussing Aaliyah in connection with Mr. Kelly.

But Mr. Smith was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, and Judge Donnelly told him he could face penalties if he did not cooperate. After consulting with his lawyer, he agreed to testify.

Jurors had already heard several graphic accounts, including from the first of the singer’s accusers to testify against him in the decades of allegations he has faced and a longtime doctor who gave credence to prosecutors’ claims that Mr. Kelly had knowingly exposed sexual partners to herpes.

Even as Mr. Kelly’s sexual conduct takes center stage, the actions of those in his inner circle — managers, bodyguards, drivers and members of his entourage, among others — will be critical to the jury’s verdict.

To win a conviction on the racketeering charge, prosecutors must prove the existence of a criminal enterprise that extends beyond Mr. Kelly. An initial window into how the government intends to make that case came on Friday, as one of Mr. Kelly’s former employees took the witness stand.

The employee, Anthony Navarro, testified that he was an assistant at Mr. Kelly’s recording studio in the Chicago area in the 2000s. He said he had worked with other music superstars over the years, but that his experience with Mr. Kelly was markedly different.

“It was almost like the ‘Twilight Zone,’” Mr. Navarro told jurors. “You went into the gate and it was a different world.”

In his role as Mr. Kelly’s assistant, Mr. Navarro said, he was often responsible for errands that seemed highly personal — driving the entertainer’s girlfriends around and picking up his medication. It was unusual, he testified, compared with his later experiences in the music industry and a “hard time” for him.

“The things that you had to do was just a bit uncomfortable,” Mr. Navarro, who was in his early 20s when he worked for Mr. Kelly, told the jury. “The music and production stuff was really good. All the other stuff was kind of strange.”

R. Kelly trial: Details spilled on fake ID obtained for 15-year-old Aaliyah to illicitly marry singer

USA TODAY 22 August, 2021 - 04:40am

The third day of Mr. Kelly’s trial focused on his 1994 marriage to the singer, which prompted early scrutiny of his dealings with underage girls.

The R&B artist R. Kelly was minutes from taking the stage at a concert in 1994 when he got some unsettling news: A teenage girl might be carrying his child, one of the entertainer’s former tour managers testified on Friday.

The girl was Aaliyah, one of the most celebrated music stars of the 1990s. Her marriage to Mr. Kelly prompted the first significant scrutiny of his encounters with underage girls.

“Aaliyah’s in trouble man,” the manager, Demetrius Smith, recalled Mr. Kelly telling him during the third day of the singer’s trial. “We need to get home.”

Mr. Kelly’s accountant, Mr. Smith said, suggested a complex scheme: To avoid potential prosecution for statutory rape, Mr. Kelly, who was 27, could marry the young recording artist.

“I told him that he couldn’t marry Aaliyah. She was too young,” Mr. Smith testified, adding that “he asked me whose side I was on.”

In the days that followed, Mr. Smith said, Mr. Kelly and his inner circle carried out the plot. Mr. Smith, 65, said he bribed an Illinois government employee to obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. The group went to a hotel and called around to find a minister, who married the couple there.

The details of the marriage came at the end of the opening week of Mr. Kelly’s long-awaited criminal trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He faces one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.

Mr. Kelly, 54, has denied all of the accusations.

On Friday, Mr. Smith, who said he had stopped working for Mr. Kelly shortly after the marriage scheme was concocted, outlined Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah’s time together. He described their first meeting at her family home in Michigan in 1992, how the relationship continued through the recording and release of her debut album and then the evening on tour that led to their illegal union.

Mr. Smith testified that on the night in 1994 that preceded the illicit marriage, Mr. Kelly asked him to arrange an unplanned, round-trip flight to Illinois because of an issue related to Aaliyah.

Mr. Smith said that he was surprised by what he viewed as an unusual request — coming midway through a tour and minutes before Mr. Kelly was to take the stage — and that he suggested contacting Barry Hankerson, Mr. Kelly’s manager and Aaliyah’s uncle. Mr. Hankerson had introduced the two.

But Mr. Kelly said it “was deeper than that” and not to call Mr. Hankerson, Mr. Smith said.

On the flight, Mr. Smith testified, Mr. Kelly was quiet and cried at one point. Eventually, Mr. Smith added, the full story was revealed: “‘Aaliyah, man. She thinks she’s pregnant,’” Mr. Smith recalled Mr. Kelly telling him. “It was a shock.”

Mr. Smith said that he, Aaliyah, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Kelly’s accountant firmed up the details of their plan at a Sheraton hotel in the Chicago suburbs. Mr. Smith, who said he had disagreed with the plot but feared being shut out of conversations, testified that he told the others that he knew an employee at a nearby government office who he believed would be receptive to a $500 bribe.

Mr. Smith said that he and Aaliyah drove to the office, and as Mr. Kelly waited in the car, the group obtained the ID that was used to get the marriage license.

Mr. Smith will continue his testimony, including under cross-examination by Mr. Kelly’s lawyers, when the trial resumes on Monday.

Potentially criminal activity that dates to the early 1990s would normally fall outside the statute of limitations. But the racketeering charge, which presents Mr. Kelly as the ringleader of a decades-long, criminal scheme to recruit women and underage girls for sex, allows prosecutors to introduce evidence from any time within when the alleged conspiracy occurred.

Other witnesses at the trial are expected to testify about Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah’s interactions. He began working with her around 1992, when she was 12, prosecutors said this week, and initiated a sexual relationship with her shortly after that.

One witness is expected to testify that she observed their sexual contact, around the time Aaliyah was 13. And prosecutors say a second woman, who is one of the accusers at the center of the case against Mr. Kelly, will tell jurors he once admitted to her that he married Aaliyah because he believed she was pregnant and was seeking legal protection against her possible testimony.

Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, died in 2001 in a plane crash at 22. She has been identified in court documents as Jane Doe No. 1. Mr. Smith, who first met Mr. Kelly in 1985, said he had cause for concern early on. Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah were often alone together at his recording studio and at his apartment, Mr. Smith said, sometimes for up to an hour. At first, Mr. Smith said, it appeared to be related to music, and he gave it little thought.

But as the weeks and months passed, Mr. Smith said, some of the interactions made him uneasy.

“At times, I was concerned,” he testified. On at least one occasion, Mr. Smith said, their behavior had prompted him to ask, “Robert, you ain’t messing with Aaliyah?”

He said he meant “flirting, being flirtatious. Seducing her.”

Mr. Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah brought attention to his relationships and dealings with women more than two decades ago after Vibe magazine reported on the marriage license, which listed her age as 18.

“This was, of course, a huge problem for him,” Maria Cruz Melendez, one of the prosecutors, said during an opening statement. “If she was pregnant, that meant there would be questions: At the very top of that list of questions — who is the father of that baby?”

Aaliyah was 14 when she released her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” which Mr. Kelly produced. Her music, which had long been unavailable on streaming platforms amid legal disputes, was released on Friday.

Outside the jury’s presence on Friday, Mr. Smith said he had intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to testify.

“I don’t want to be here, period,” he told Judge Ann M. Donnelly, adding that he was uncomfortable with discussing Aaliyah in connection with Mr. Kelly.

But Mr. Smith was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, and Judge Donnelly told him he could face penalties if he did not cooperate. After consulting with his lawyer, he agreed to testify.

Jurors had already heard several graphic accounts, including from the first of the singer’s accusers to testify against him in the decades of allegations he has faced and a longtime doctor who gave credence to prosecutors’ claims that Mr. Kelly had knowingly exposed sexual partners to herpes.

Even as Mr. Kelly’s sexual conduct takes center stage, the actions of those in his inner circle — managers, bodyguards, drivers and members of his entourage, among others — will be critical to the jury’s verdict.

To win a conviction on the racketeering charge, prosecutors must prove the existence of a criminal enterprise that extends beyond Mr. Kelly. An initial window into how the government intends to make that case came on Friday, as one of Mr. Kelly’s former employees took the witness stand.

The employee, Anthony Navarro, testified that he was an assistant at Mr. Kelly’s recording studio in the Chicago area in the 2000s. He said he had worked with other music superstars over the years, but that his experience with Mr. Kelly was markedly different.

“It was almost like the ‘Twilight Zone,’” Mr. Navarro told jurors. “You went into the gate and it was a different world.”

In his role as Mr. Kelly’s assistant, Mr. Navarro said, he was often responsible for errands that seemed highly personal — driving the entertainer’s girlfriends around and picking up his medication. It was unusual, he testified, compared with his later experiences in the music industry and a “hard time” for him.

“The things that you had to do was just a bit uncomfortable,” Mr. Navarro, who was in his early 20s when he worked for Mr. Kelly, told the jury. “The music and production stuff was really good. All the other stuff was kind of strange.”

R. Kelly employee says working for singer was weirder than gigs with Kanye, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift: ‘It was almost like the Twilight Zone’

Yahoo! Voices 22 August, 2021 - 04:40am

Anthony Navarro, who worked for Kelly at his mansion in the Chicago suburbs between 2008 and 2009, told jurors that his experience working for Kelly was unlike any other music industry job.

“It was almost like the Twilight Zone. Once you went into the gate ... It’s just a strange place,” Navarro testified.

“It was a weird time for me. The things that you had to do was just a bit uncomfortable,” he said.

Navarro was subpoenaed to testify by federal prosecutors in Kelly’s sex trafficking trial.

As a music production worker and assistant, he handled many chores around Kelly’s massive complex in Olympia Fields, Illinois. He said he drove young women to and from the airport, cleaned the house and picked up food.

Young women staying in the mansion would call down to Navarro in the studio for food. Before he could go buy their orders, Navarro had to request permission from Kelly or one of his managers, he testified.

On top of that, he was not allowed to speak to any young women that Kelly had as guests.

“That’s one of Rob’s rules for us,” he said. “They had to get permission to do most things.”

The young women also had to remain where Kelly wanted them in the house, Navarro testified.

“The general rule was, if they’re not where they’re supposed to be, you’d have to call Rob or a manager,” he said.

Navarro testified that he never saw anyone having sex in the house.

His testimony comes during the monthlong sex trafficking trial of the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, 54.

Kelly is accused of trafficking women and girls for illegal sexual activity. Kelly is also charged with knowingly giving herpes to some of his victims, which is a crime in certain states.

One of Kelly’s underage victims, Jerhonda Pace, who said she had a six-month sexual relationship with the singer when she was just 16, testified Thursday about how Kelly forced her to wear pigtails and dress up like a Girl Scout for sex that he recorded.

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A former tour manager for R. Kelly told jurors at the R&B singer's sex abuse trial on Friday that Kelly paid a $500 bribe in order to obtain a license to marry the singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 after fearing he had gotten her pregnant. Jurors also heard testimony from a former Kelly aide who said that working for his former boss was almost like being in a "twilight zone." The testimony came on the third day of Kelly's trial, where the 54-year-old known for the Grammy-winning song "I Believe I Can Fly" is accused of running a two-decade racketeering scheme in which he demanded absolute control over his alleged victims.

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A key prosecution witness against R. Kelly at his sex abuse trial testified on Thursday that the R&B singer videotaped their sexual activity when she was 16 and insisted she dress like a Girl Scout. Jerhonda Pace, 28, one of the first women to publicly accuse Kelly of sexual abuse, spoke during her second day of testimony in Brooklyn federal court, the first of many expected prosecution witnesses against the 54-year-old Kelly. The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment accusing him of dominating and demanding absolute commitment from women and girls he abused in a two-decade racketeering scheme.

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A former tour manager for R. Kelly reluctantly testified Friday that he paid a $500 bribe to a government worker to get the singer Aaliyah a fake identification card so Kelly could secretly marry her when she was 15 years old. Demetrius Smith told a jury at Kelly’s sex-trafficking trial that after he went into a Chicago-area welfare office in 1994, he brazenly approached an employee who was taking ID photos. The welfare card was one of two fake IDs used to clear the way for the R&B legend to marry Aaliyah after he began a sexual relationship with her and believed she had become pregnant.

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Ex-employee: R. Kelly lived in 'Twilight Zone' he controlled

Republic World 22 August, 2021 - 04:40am

By Cynthia Littleton

Mike Richards is out as “Jeopardy!” host, just nine days after he was tapped to succeed the legendary Alex Trebek as the face of the beloved quiz show.

Richards, who is also executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” saw his hold on the job undone with astonishing speed after unflattering and downright ugly details surfaced about his past conduct and statements he made on an eight-year-old podcast series. He will remain the show’s executive producer and episodes that Richards shot on Thursday in his first and only day as “Jeopardy!” permanent host will run as scheduled to start off the new season on Sept. 13.

On Friday, Sony Pictures TV confirmed that Richards had agreed to step aside as host. In a statement, Richards said the backlash had created “too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show.”

“Jeopardy!” has no choice but to run the Richards-hosted episodes taped Thursday because of the need for contuinity among contestants, given that the winner of each episode continues to compete on the following episode.

Richards’ hasty exit as host came a day after the Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation after a report surfaced in The Ringer that Richards made disparaging remarks about Jews, women and other groups in episodes of the comedy podcast “The Randumb Show” recorded in 2013 and 2014.

In the podcast, Richards had asked his female assistant and his female co-host whether they had ever taken nude photos, or in his words, “booby pictures.” In another episode, he called his co-host a “booth ho.”

In the end, Sony concluded that Richards’ image was too battered for him to take the helm of one of television’s most prestigious and popular brands. The irony is that the studio moved in his favor because he was seen as a neutral personality rather than an established name that might overshadow the show and its famously rapid fire, answers-in-the-form-of-a-question format.

“We support Mike’s decision to step down as host,” Sony Pictures TV said. “We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past.  We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward.”

But the studio also voiced support for him remaining in his role as executive producer. A new round of guest hosts will be tapped to tape episodes to launch the show’s 38th year in syndication next month. Richards began his first day of taping as permanent host on Aug. 19, which turned out to be his last day in the role.

Sony learned the hard way how much America loves “Jeopardy!” The search for the host to follow in the footsteps of Trebek, who died last November at age 80, was a long series of guest host turns by such notables as Mayim Bialik, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, Dr. Mehmet Oz, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Aaron Rodgers and former contestants Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen.

When Richards was named as the permanent successor, vocal “Jeopardy!” fans complained loudly on social media that the fix was in from Richards. The nitty gritty details of the behind-the-scenes selection process was scrutinized on the level of a Supreme Court appointment. Internet-fueled speculation proliferated about Richards’ ability to sabotage other hosts by editing episodes to make them look bad. There was outrage that Richards as executive producer had the final say on the guest-hosted episodes sent for focus group testing. Richards added fuel to the fire with more than a few examples of sophomoric behavior that made him seen by the “Jeopardy!” faithful as unfit to follow Trebek behind the lectern.

Sony was caught by surprise by the news of Richards’ past podcast work and the edgy comments that fueled more outrage against his selection as host. A source close to the situation said there was concern that Richards was cavalier enough to use such language and attitude toward women in a public forum of a podcast even after he’d been involved in two discrimination lawsuits a few years before.

In 2010 and 2011, multiple models working on “Price Is Right” accused Richards and others of discriminating against them for becoming pregnant while working on the show. He was accused of making disparaging remarks about some of the women and for taking steps to freeze them out of the series. Richards issued a statement last week disputing the characterization in the lawsuit as “not who I am.” 

Richards’ role as executive producer may become awkward as Sony begins the search for a host anew, given that his desire for the job has been made crystal clear.

Richards was named permanent host on Aug. 11, six days after Variety reported he was in advanced negotiations for the coveted job. At the same time, Sony Pictures named Bialik, who was a fan favorite during the guest host run that began in January, as host of “Jeopardy!” primetime specials and a spinoff series.

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