Defence: Key government witness tried to extort R. Kelly


CHICAGO (AP) — Defense attorneys at R. Kelly’s Chicago child pornography trial sought to portray a key government witness as a liar and extortionist on Wednesday, saying the man first approached the star of R&B in 2001 and demanded that Kelly pay $1 million or he’d release a video that could put Kelly in serious legal danger.

The claims came during seven hours of often scathing cross-examination of Charles Freeman, a former Kelly merchandising agent who testified Tuesday that it was Kelly who first approached him, eventually offering Freeman $1 million. dollars to recover a VHS tape featuring Kelly.

« Your whole relationship with (Kelly) was centered around stealing from him and lying to him, » Kelly’s lead attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, told Freeman on Wednesday, raising her voice. A few minutes later, she added, « You were on a shakedown program, weren’t you? » Freeman fired back, « No! » He also said, « I’m not a thief. »

Federal prosecutors have charged Kelly with producing child pornography based in part on this recording, which they say shows him sexually abusing a 14-year-old. He and co-defendant Derrel McDavid are also accused of successfully rigging Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial by threatening witnesses and concealing video evidence.

Freeman’s testimony at that trial helps support prosecutors’ claims that Kelly and McDavid knew the videos Kelly lost track of in the early 2000s were incriminating and could lead to his conviction at the 2008 trial.

McDavid’s attorney, Beau Brindley, began cross-examination Wednesday by pacing, waving grand jury transcripts at Freeman and repeatedly telling the 52-year-old to « shut up and shut up. » ‘listen’ to her questions as he sought to demolish Freeman’s credibility.

« How many times have you told lies on videotapes related to Robert Kelly? » Brindley asked, using Kelly’s full first name. “It’s several times, isn’t it? »

Freeman agreed yes.

Freeman, who is testifying under an immunity agreement, also agreed when Brindley asked if it was hard « to trust a person who is lying…who will cheat and steal to get money. »

Kelly, 55, was sentenced in June to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in New York on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking. If found guilty in the US District Court in Chicago, he could see years added to that sentence.

Brindley also accused Freeman of lying when he said he found the video Kelly was looking for in Atlanta in 2001 and when he said he didn’t know its contents until he watched it later in the day. same day. Brindley suggested that Freeman never went to Atlanta and already had a potentially compromising video of Kelly, using it to extort Kelly.

« That’s how it all happened, isn’t it? » Brindley asked. Freeman said that wasn’t true.

Freeman said money was not his only motivation for agreeing to stalk the video, insisting he also wanted to help his friend, Kelly, whom he had known since around 1990.

Freeman admitted to keeping copies of videos for almost 20 years. It wasn’t until a lawyer warned him in 2019 that police were about to arrest Freeman for possession of child pornography that he finally turned them over to law enforcement, he said. testified.

After Freeman smiled as Brindley questioned him about keeping child porn for so long, Brindley asked, « Is it funny? » Are you having a good time? Freeman replied, « Yes, I am. »

« Aren’t you upset with what you did? » Brindley asked.

« I’m not, » Freeman replied.

After acquitting Kelly in 2008, some jurors told reporters they had no choice because the girl – then in her 20s – did not take the witness stand to confirm it was her in the video that was central to the state affair. Last week, she testified at the federal trial in Chicago, saying she was the child in the video and Kelly was the grown man.


Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at and find AP’s full coverage of the R. Kelly trial at

Michael Tarm, The Associated Press


Back to top button