CHICAGO (AP) — A former merchandising agent for R. Kelly testified on Tuesday that the singer offered him $1 million to find a VHS tape featuring Kelly, as prosecutors tried to convince the jury that Kelly was desperate to get the missing recording back. knowing it could put him in legal jeopardy if it falls into the hands of law enforcement.
Based in part on that recording, prosecutors say the R&B star sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girlKelly is charged with, among other things, the production of child pornography. He is also accused of solving his 2008 child pornography trial by threatening witnesses and hiding video evidence.
Charles Freeman testified on Tuesday that Kelly contacted him in 2001 to ask him to track down the recording. Freeman, a 52-year-old from Kansas City, also explained how for years he pressured Kelly and his associates to pay him the full $1 million after Freeman found and returned the tape.
Freeman told the judges that he didn’t know the contents of the video until after picking it up from an Atlanta home in 2001 and putting it in a VHS player at a friend’s house later that day.
“I observed Robert Kelly with a young lady having sex,” he said.
When a prosecutor asked Freeman, who testified under an immunity deal Tuesday, why it took him nearly two decades to turn over to police the recording, those and other child phonography recordings associated with Kelly, Freeman replied: “Because the police failed to pay me a million dollars.”
Kelly, 55, is already serving a 30-year prison sentence imposed by a federal judge in New York in June for his 2021 convictions on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking. If convicted in Chicago, he could add years to that sentence.
During his 2008 trial, in which Kelly was eventually acquitted, prosecutors described Kelly carrying a duffel bag full of his homemade child porn tapes everywhere he went. Despite Kelly’s efforts in the 1990s to keep them close, some leaked out or were stolen by disgruntled employees or friends, prosecutors said.
After they acquitted Kelly in 2008, some jurors told reporters they had no choice but to find Kelly not guilty because the girl – who was in her 20s at the time – failed to appear on the witness stand to confirm that it was her in the charges. video. Last week, she testified on the federal trail in Chicago, saying she was the minor in the video and Kelly the grown man.
But actually getting the $1 million Freeman said he was promised by Kelly became an all-consuming task that took years, he told the judges.
Shortly after Freeman found the video, in 2001 he met two Kelly employees at a Kansas City hotel expecting to receive payment in full, Freeman testified. When he walked into a room and saw two brown bags full of money, he told the jurors that he immediately knew it wasn’t enough.
“That’s not a million dollars,” he reminded Kelly’s people.
Freeman said he eventually left with a paper bag filled with $75,000 in cash after being assured he would eventually get the full $1 million. Even after turning the band around and getting partial payment, Freeman maintained a huge influence over Kelly, including the possibility that he could be made public with what he knew.
Freeman described himself as stalking Kelly at concerts to demand that he pay the $1 million balance, threatening to go public with what he knew, and file lawsuits to force Kelly to pay. He said every threat and lawsuit typically resulted in Kelly employees throwing more money at Freeman, sometimes literally.
Another time at R. Kelly’s suburban Chicago home, Freeman said that a Kelly employee and now co-defendant in the pending trial, Derrel McDavid, told Freeman to take off all his clothes and go into Kelly’s pool so he could get there. assured that Freeman was not present. t wearing a law enforcement recording device.
“I don’t go in the pool naked,” Freeman recalled to McDavid. Freeman said he eventually took off his shirt to show he wasn’t wearing braces.
Later, as he drove off a parking lot, McDavid gave Freeman another episode and threw a brown bag containing $100,000 in ten bundles of $10,000 through Freeman’s open car window.
McDavid and another Kelly employee, Milton Brown, are on trial with Kelly. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly resolve the 2008 trial, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they have also denied wrongdoing.
Freeman testified that in late 2003 or early 2004, McDavid approached him again about getting another tape that had disappeared from Kelly’s collection. He said he told McDavid, “If I have to get another tape back, you’ll have to pay me another million dollars.”
Freeman is expected to take the stand again on Wednesday, when defense lawyers are given a chance to question him.
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