Former R. Kelly business manager Derrel McDavid spoke up in his own defense on Wednesday. He faces four federal charges – two for receiving child pornography, one for conspiracy to receive child pornography and one for conspiracy to obstruct justice.
McDavid is accused of conspiring with Kelly and Kelly’s former assistant Milton “June” Brown to cover up incriminating sex tapes that allegedly show the singer sexually abusing girls before his 2008 child pornography trial in Cook County, which resulted in Kelly’s acquittal.
Hired as Kelly’s accountant in the 1990s, McDavid described his first encounter with Kelly early in the singer’s career. When Kelly asked him on the day he was hired if he had heard his music, McDavid replied no, and he told the jury that Kelly seemed disappointed.
McDavid described Kelly as a shy, introverted and humble child when he first met him.
“He was just trying to get into the music business and be successful,” McDavid said.
As Kelly has become a music superstar, McDavid said his work for the singer has also grown, saying Kelly went from having little money to nearly a million dollars after his debut album went platinum. .
McDavid said he first realized Kelly could be a superstar on a trip with his wife and sons to Georgia, when his wife was playing country music on the radio and a song from the first Kelly’s album, “12 Play”, arrived on the same station. McDavid said he glanced at his wife and said, “Looks like he made it.”
Describing Kelly as a “self-contained” artist, McDavid said Kelly was one of the most prolific songwriters of the time and could write lyrics, create music, put together melodies, play instruments and produce the music.
Ultimately, McDavid became Kelly’s business manager, handling all of his financial and business dealings, including writing checks, paying bills, buying his cars, and handling insurance. . McDavid testified that Kelly didn’t want to be involved with the expenses at all and expected him to take care of everything.
Asked how his own duties changed as Kelly’s career took off, McDavid replied, “More money, more problems.”
McDavid said Kelly’s tours were the most expensive part of his career, and it was his job to keep them profitable for Kelly, leading to fights over tour costs, telling the jury that Kelly “always had everything wanted”.
In the meantime, their business relationship turned into a friendship, with McDavid telling the jury at one point that he considered Kelly his son.
McDavid said that while Kelly was shy around women when they first met, he later embraced the attention he got from women on becoming a superstar and started acting like most superstars, demanding that he get everything he wanted.
McDavid recalled that Kelly eventually started flying women to see him and putting them up in hotels. He also testified that all of these women were adults, when asked if he was referring to teenage girls.
McDavid also described the friction that developed between Kelly and her former manager, Barry Hankerson, as Kelly became increasingly successful. McDavid testified that the more successful Kelly was, the more time and attention he needed, and at the same time Hankerson became more controlling, to the point that he would show up at the studio with bodyguards as a method of intimidation. .
As this friction grew between Kelly and Hankerson, McDavid testified that Hankerson’s role with Kelly diminished and his own increased.
McDavid recounted a 1999 incident at a chicken shack in Los Angeles when he said Hankerson entered with a bodyguard and knocked over a lunch table, sparking a fight with Kelly and causing further deterioration of their relationship.
McDavid testified that he believed there had been another incident at a concert in Philadelphia, and it was then that Kelly told him to call his attorney, Gerry Margolis, to fire Hankerson.
Regarding the first lawsuit Kelly faced, McDavid said he discovered that Tiffany Hawkins filed a paternity suit against him in 1997.
McDavid testified that he found out about the claim through Margolis, and that during a conference call with Kelly and Margolis, Kelly told them “no”, and that he would take a paternity test to prove that was not the father.
McDavid testified that the paternity suit was later dropped, but Hawkins later filed a lawsuit accusing Kelly of having sex with her when she was underage. McDavid said he didn’t believe anything she said because she hadn’t gone to the police.
“I think if you were going to claim that someone had sex with you when you were underage, you would go to the police,” he testified.
McDavid said he told Margolis he believed Hawkins sued Kelly to get money from him, and Margolis told him this sort of thing was common and almost the “cost of doing business.” as a celebrity.
While Margolis told him he believed Kelly would be “vindicated” but they would still pay a settlement, McDavid testified that he found the decision confusing. But he said Margolis explained that even such a false rumor could hurt Kelly, and that it wasn’t worth a public fight.
McDavid also recalled witnessing a deposition from Hawkins in the middle of that trial, saying that after seven hours Margolis had proven she was lying, as he caught her in more lies than McDavid could count. . He said it was clear Hawkins was “someone who was just trying to get paid”.
McDavid testified that Hawkins’ attorney Susan Loggans asked Margolis what she could get, initially demanding $10 million, but agreeing to a $250,000 settlement. Compared to what Kelly was earning at the time, McDavid said the settlement was relatively insignificant.
McDavid told the jury that the Hawkins trial affected the way he viewed these kinds of cases, and Margolis told him that’s how it was when a star was successful.
After that case, McDavid said Loggans later filed a series of “blowout” lawsuits against Kelly on behalf of other women, making statements similar to those of Hawkins, telling the jury he doubted that they are true because of their similarity.
McDavid recalled that Loggans put up billboards and television ads asking women “if you want to sue R. Kelly, call me.” He testified that these efforts discredited Loggans in his eyes.
McDavid’s attorney, Beau Brindley, also referred to other occasions in which he claimed women were coached to say they had sexual contact with Kelly before she was 18 in order to win a settlement.
McDavid said this led him to conclude that anyone who comes forward with an allegation against Kelly without going to the police was lying.
McDavid testified that in December 2000, he received a phone call from Kelly saying he was being harassed about an alleged inappropriate relationship with his 14-year-old goddaughter, “Jane.” McDavid testified that this was the first time he had heard of such a relationship and asked Kelly if there was anything to these allegations. He said Kelly quickly dismissed the idea, saying, “Are you crazy? She’s my goddaughter. Of course there’s no truth to that.”
Brindley then produced further reports in which Jane herself denied the allegations – even under pressure from the police. McDavid said these reports reinforced his belief that the allegations were not true.
He also said that if the allegations of inappropriate conduct between Kelly and Jane were true, he was sure the police would have come to see Kelly and her team – and they didn’t.
McDavid also spoke directly about Charles Freeman’s prior testimony – calling it false. He called Freeman a criminal who tried to extort Kelly.
Freeman testified that he was sent to retrieve the sex tape that showed Kelly, and agreed to do so for $1 million.
Asked why he didn’t report Freeman to the police for blackmail and extortion over the sex tape allegations, McDavid said Margolis didn’t want any news of the tape aired because it could ruin the Kelly’s career.
McDavid said he disagreed with the plan to pay Freeman for the tape and would have preferred to go to the police. But McDavid said Margolis and private investigator Jack Palladino said he was out of his league and had to follow through.
McDavid testified that he was afraid that Freeman would come back again and again for money, and then Freeman did. He said Freeman wanted a contract and got one, but he said Kelly’s team never agreed to pay Freeman $1 million.
McDavid said that Freeman later gave Palladino a tape, which Palladino said was of very poor quality, so they could not tell who the woman appearing on it was.
McDavid said Kelly was really angry and “pissed off” by the accusations in a sex tape with Jane because he claimed they weren’t true and he wasn’t scared or scared of them. In contrast, Kelly said there may be sex tapes of him and a grown woman.
McDavid said he called Margolis about the rumor, and Margolis said Kelly should meet with Jane’s parents and let them know about the sex tape rumor so they don’t get “swept up in the media.” . McDavid also testified for the first time that Margolis told him he should hire a criminal lawyer.
McDavid said he arranged a meeting between Kelly and Jane and her parents – which McDavid said he himself did not attend. McDavid said that after the meeting, Kelly was calm and had a sense of relief, and McDavid said that at this point he still had no reason not to believe Kelly.