By MICHAEL TARM, AP Legal Affairs Editor
CHICAGO (AP) — Singer R. Kelly’s former business manager told jurors Wednesday that he never believed the sexual misconduct allegations against his boss, saying he understood that pushing back against the false allegations was a cost for a superstar.
Derrell McDavid, a co-defendant in Kelly’s child pornography and trial fixation trial in Chicago federal court, said he saw no signs that Kelly was looking for minors for sex, accusing haters of Kelly and those hoping to cash in on her fame for concocting the allegations.
Prosecutors ended their two-week presentation to jurors ahead of the Labor Day holiday, which included testimony from four of Kelly’s accusers who described him as a master manipulator.
McDavid and Kelly both face conspiracy to obstruct justice charges that accuse them of rigging Kelly’s 2008 trial, in which the R&B star was acquitted. A third co-defendant, Kelly’s former associate Milton Brown, faces one charge: conspiracy to receive child pornography.
McDavid told jurors he saw the prosecution’s star witness – referred to by the pseudonym “Jane” during the current trial – as a minor hanging out at Kelly’s studio in the late 1990s. He said Kelly angrily denied rumors that he was sexually abusing Jane, whom Kelly described as his goddaughter.
“I believed him,” McDavid said.
McDavid spoke in a dry, matter-of-fact manner from the witness box for more than four hours on Wednesday. Before the trial resumed after a lunch break, McDavid stood at Kelly’s defense table and spoke kindly with his former employer.
Testifying earlier for prosecutors, Jane, now 37, said Kelly sexually assaulted her hundreds of times from the age of 14. test. She said Kelly produced it.
McDavid is the only one of the three defendants to testify on his own behalf. Kelly and Brown told the trial judge last week that they would not testify.
This federal trial in Kelly’s hometown of Chicago follows a separate federal trial in New York, where Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in June.
McDavid, who said he came to see Kelly as a son after he started working for the budding star in the early 90s, portrayed Kelly as a unique talent who, shy and humble as a young man, struggled to cope with rising fame and fortune.
Success, he told jurors, began to change Kelly.
“As he (achieved) stardom, he started acting like most superstars,” he said. McDavid added, “When I first met him he was shy around women.” The now famous Kelly, he said, began to attract the attention of women wherever he went, sometimes paying for women’s flights to see him in Chicago.
When McDavid’s attorney, Beau Brindley, interrupted him to ask if he was referring to 13- and 14-year-old girls, McDavid said no.
“Grown women,” he replied.
As more rumors began circulating about Kelly’s possible misconduct and the first accusers surfaced around 2000, McDavid said he still did not believe any of them.
McDavid said the lesson he learned from a litigant who represented Kelly in a first lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct was that stars are better off settling lawsuits — even if settling them makes them look guilty.
“Even a rumor that something like this is coming out could hurt your client — even if it’s not true,” McDavid said, citing what the attorney explained to him.
Prior to Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, McDavid said he had no reason to believe Jane was the person in the video that jurors would be asked to assess. She had told a grand jury before the trial began that she was not the one in the video.
“There was absolutely no truth to any of this.… She denied it. Her parents denied it,” McDavid said. His conclusion at the time, he said, was that the allegations were “a grand plan…to destroy Robert Kelly.”
Jane and her mother testified during the ongoing trial that Kelly and his associates used intimidation and bribes to ensure they lied to the grand jury and to ensure they would refuse to testify against him in the 2008 trial.
McDavid was scheduled to resume testimony for the defense on Thursday.
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm and find full AP coverage of the R. Kelly trial at https://apnews.com/hub/r-kelly
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