The Kansas City man who was central to an alleged scheme to hide a sex tape showing R. Kelly in a threesome with a 14-year-old girl told a federal jury on Friday that he only had a partial copy of the initially handed the tape to Kelly’s employees because he “didn’t think they would know the difference.”
Keith Murrell, 45, is a key witness for prosecutors trying to prove that Kelly and his two co-defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, conspired to buy back incriminating tapes and cover up Kelly’s sexual misconduct for years.
Murrell’s testimony, who concluded the second week of Kelly’s trial at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, helped bolster key elements of the indictment. But he also contradicted another key witness, his girlfriend Lisa Van Allen, on several key points, including why she sent him the tape, the number of sexual encounters it said, and whether money was the motivating factor for returning it to Kelly. .
Murrell walked into the court in a blue suit and dark sunglasses. He remained gloomy and seemed a little nervous, contradicting his friend and previous witness, Charles Freeman, who sat relaxed and smiling in the stands.
Murrell, who testified in Missouri, said he met Kelly in the mid-1990s when he was in an R&B group called K-OS. After impressing Kelly with a song they sang on his voicemail, they were flown to Chicago in 1997 to record with Kelly’s label, he said.
It was then that Murrell said he met Van Allen, a romantic partner of Kelly’s who testified this week that she participated in threesomes with Kelly and his then-underage goddaughter, which Kelly had videotaped.
Murrell said he eventually moved back to Kansas City in the early 2000s. While living there, Van Allen sent him a videotape to “keep” for her, which he said he immediately watched. “It was Lisa, Rob and another girl who had sex,” he testified.
Murrell said he showed the video to several friends, including Freeman, but never gave it to anyone else. He was stunned in 2007, he said, when McDavid called him out of the blue and said they knew he had a band.
Brown called him later and said to take it to Chicago, but before he went, Murrell made a copy of an approximately 8 to 10 minute “snippet” of the tape to take with him, saying, “I didn’t think they it would know the difference.”
After flying to Chicago with the copy of the tape, he met Brown and McDavid at a downtown hotel, where he failed a lie detector test when asked if he had made copies. Murrell said McDavid gave him $20,000 in cash and told him to go back to Kansas City and get the original tape, and if he did, he would get a total reward of $100,000. He said McDavid had informed him that “they weren’t playing.”
Murrell later went back to Chicago with the original tape, he said. When he arrived, Brown told him he had “the golden egg or something,” Murrell testified. He gave the tape to McDavid, who arranged for him to take a second lie detector test.
After he passed away, McDavid said “thank you” and shook my hand and hugged me. And then he gave me the money too.” Murrell says it was a bag with $80,000 in cash.
In her testimony Thursday, Van Allen sobbed as she described how McDavid threatened her after she failed a lie detector test over the tape, telling her “they should have murmured to me from the start” — that is, they should have killed her.
Murrell said Van Allen never told him about the alleged threat. During the cross-examination, he was also asked if McDavid had ever threatened him. After initially saying no, Murrell said McDavid drew his attention to a large member of Kelly’s security team who was also in the room.
“He said if I didn’t come back, this man would come and see me,” Murrell said.
Murrell admitted at cross-examination that he had asked Van Allen to send him the tape because he wanted to see it, and that she had never told him that it contained anything inappropriate or illegal.
When he looked at it, it didn’t look like anything criminal, he said. And there was only one sexual encounter on the tape, Murrell said — while Van Allen has testified it was three separate scenes, two of which were just Kelly and his young goddaughter.
Earlier Friday, Van Allen’s continued cross-examination got off to an extremely controversial start. Within 15 minutes, the exchange with Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean had become so argumentative and circular that the judge intervened, and within about 20 minutes the witness had burst into tears.
Van Allen, 42, admitted at the start that she was “exhausted” and did not want to come to court on Friday after spending about five hours in the stands the day before.
Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean repeatedly noted that for years Van Allen had said that she first met Kelly when she was 17, but in the process acknowledged that she was 18. Authorities had informed her that the video clip where they met was filmed after her 18th birthday.
Bonjean expressed increasing annoyance at Van Allen’s failure to capture a timeline for exactly when she met Kelly and how old she was at the time. At one point, when Van Allen again said she was confused by a question, Bonjean threw up her hands and looked up at the ceiling with a deep sigh.
“Why do all that math when I’m trying to tell the truth?” said Van Allen, frustrated. ‘… When I testified against him, it was not for me. It was about Jane.”
Bonjean noted that Jane was underage when Van Allen admittedly had sexual contact with her and Kelly: “You’re here to testify for her? Is this the person you sexually abused?”
Van Allen’s lower lip began to tremble. She picked up a box of tissues and began to dab her eyes. Then she burst out sobbing.
“I’m not proud of that. I don’t know what woman would be proud of that,” she said with tears in her eyes. “But I’m here to admit my wrongdoing and hold him accountable for what he’s done so you can sit here and try to make me the bad guy, all you want.”
As she sobbed for a few awkward minutes, Bonjean stood in front of the lectern, arms crossed. “Let me know when you compose yourself,” she said.
Bonjean also asked Van Allen how many threesomes she had with Kelly and where and when and why. She showed Van Allen a statement she made to authorities in 2019, in which she said she joined the threesomes because she was very sorry that Kelly had been molested at a young age.
With that, the judges learned about that traumatic part of Kelly’s history without Kelly having to take the stand.
Van Allen said she contacted Kelly for his help getting the incriminating video back, but then Kelly offered to give her money if she could get it back. That doesn’t make sense, Bonjean implied: “This makes no sense unless it was all about money, Ms. Van Allen.”
“It makes sense not to want a sex tape. Especially with a minor’, says Van Allen.
After just over two hours of interrogation, Bonjean told the judge she had “nothing left”.
“Okay,” Van Allen said loudly into the microphone, causing Bonjean to turn and say, “Oooh!”
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Van Allen gave her a big smile.
In the referral inquiry, Assistant US Attorney Jason Julien read to jurors portions of Van Allen’s testimony from Kelly’s 2008 trial to demonstrate that her story had remained consistent and that she was not motivated by publicity. Van Allen had no book deal at the time and had not been on television.
The prosecution’s final questions sought to counter the lawyers’ insinuations that Van Allen’s expressions of emotion were just a fake show for jurors.
“Were your emotions fake yesterday?” asked Julian.
“No,” replied Van Allen.