R. Kelly gave an emotional and explosive speech, defending his innocence in his first interview since he was accused of sexual abuse.
CHICAGO – An acquaintance of R. Kelly recalled how the singer dragged a travel bag everywhere – in recording studios, movie sets and gyms. Inside, he said, it was a collection of his homemade VHS sex tapes.
Despite Kelly's efforts over the years to keep these records closed, some leaked. An incalculable number was copied and copied and distributed nationwide through flea markets and street vendors. They have been around for years and are still available on websites. A Pennsylvania man said he recently discovered one while cleaning his house.
The recordings were an integral part of Kelly's criminal cases.
One video was the focus of his 2008 child pornography trial that ended with Kelly's surprise acquittal. The video is the basis for some of the allegations of sexual abuse presented last month, accusing the Grammy winner of violating three girls and a woman.
A 45-minute video of Kelly having sex with a girl who tells the 14-year-old camera helped convince Cook County prosecutors to bring the new case, said Michael Avenatti, who handed the tape to prosecutors a few weeks before the charges.
Photo of R. Kelly's mug shot after being arrested for unpaid childcare on March 6, 2019. (Photo: Handout / Getty Images)
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"That is the bomb test that led to the charges," Avenatti said on Wednesday, previously representing the adult movie star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump.
It is not clear how the first tapes ended up in the hands of someone other than Kelly. At the 2008 trial, the prosecution witness Lisa Van Allen said that Kelly was rarely seen without a travel bag.
"Wherever he was, the bag would follow him," he told the jurors.
Van Allen, who had a friendly relationship with Kelly in 1997, said the recordings included those of him who had sex with her at the same time and the girl accused of being in the 2008 test video.
At the trial, Kelly's lawyer, Sam Adam Jr., made a mockery of the idea that the superstar was carrying a lot of sex cassettes as if it were "some kind of Santa Claus porn."
In all, more than half a dozen videos have been cited in court or depositions, or by journalists and lawyers.
Avenatti, who represents two accusers, said he had given two prosecutors previously unpublished to the public prosecutors, both with the same girl brought to light in the 2008 trial. It was a 55-minute video shot between 1999 and 2000. He says he also has a possible third video.
Van Allen, who said he was disillusioned with Kelly, removed at least one tape with her from the bag while Kelly was distracted, court documents say.
The only video shown in its entirety in the open court was that inserted as "People & # 39; s Exhibit No. 1" at the Kelly trial. Kelly photographed him in a themed room in the northern cabin of his North Side home in Chicago between 1998 and 2000 when she was just 13, prosecutors said.
The musical artist R. Kelly, in the center, arrives at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Internal Relations Division on March 6, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Kelly has denied allegations of sexual abuse of women and girls in his first public comments since he was indicted last month. "I didn't do this stuff, not me," Kelly told CBS This Morning, saying he was "fighting" for his life on an interview airing Wednesday. The extracts were released Tuesday. (Photo: Joshua Lott, AFP / Getty Images)
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In the 27-minute video, a man has sex with a young woman. He gives her the money and she mouths, "Thank you." He speaks softly and she calls him "Dad". At one point, he urinates on the girl. The man who leans to adjust the camera seems to be Kelly or someone with a striking resemblance to him.
A reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Jim DeRogatis, received the tape anonymously in his mailbox in February 2002 and handed it over to the forces of the order. Five months later, according to the video, Kelly was accused of child pornography.
Weeks before the charges, the bootleg copies of the video appeared on street corners throughout the United States, according to Sun-Times reports. A VHS copy sold for $ 10. A DVD version went for $ 15. Some had scenes of different recordings, including Kelly having sex with an adult dancer. Some pornography websites advertise Kelly's available sex tapes.
Tapes represent legal risks for anyone who owns them.
When the authorities announced the pornography allegations, they issued a warning: anyone who purchased or copied the video could face similar charges. This has raised concerns among news agencies that publishers and journalists who saw the tape outside the court could be charged.
Kelly knew that his tapes, unless he regained control over them, could continually put him in trouble.
Approaching the 2008 trial, Kelly offered Van Allen $ 250,000 to recover the tape he had taken, he said. His acquaintances took him to a hotel in Chicago, where he was handed over to a Kelly member for $ 20,000 in cash, according to court documents.
Gloria Allred, with Gary Dennis of Pennsylvania, asks questions during a press conference announcing a videotape that claims to present further evidence of wrongdoing by recording the artist R. Kelly on Sunday 10 March 2019 in New York. (Photo: Kevin Hagen, AP)
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The Pennsylvania man, Gary Dennis, told reporters that it happened on a video with the name of Kelly on a label while cleaning a box of old tapes. After slipping it onto a VHS player, the employee of the nursing home said he was shocked to see that the footage was not a concert but that Kelly had sex with a girl.
Kelly's lawyer, Steve Greenberg, said he wasn't Kelly. He said a press conference held Sunday with Dennis and attorney Gloria Allred illustrated that it is "open season on R. Kelly". Kelly denies ever having sexually abused someone.
Avenatti would not have said exactly how he had located the Kelly tapes, but they were not copies of the black market. He said he could show "a clear chain of custody" of the tapes from Kelly to prosecutors.
Video history will again be a problem in any future test. VHS tapes don't have reliable timestamps, so identifying when and where they were produced is a challenge, said Edward Primeau, a legal video expert in Michigan.
In 2008, Adam told jurors that no one knew how many hands the video had broadcast. He was, he said, "a copy of a copy of a copy", so it wasn't reliable.
The lawyer Michael Avenatti has provided the authorities with different sex boxes that say they are singers with underage girls. (Photo: Matt Marton / AP)
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Kelly's lawyers also tried to reinforce Kelly's claim that he wasn't in the video. The prosecutor said he also denied that it was her. The defense suggested that the tape may have been generated by the computer.
An prosecution analyst disputed that, saying that the work needed to manipulate every blink, shadow and facial expression on the 100,000-frame video would take four decades. A forensic expert also testified that the distinctive knots in Kelly's wood-paneled room corresponded to the nodes in the background of the video.
If Kelly goes to court again, the result will not be based entirely on video evidence.
Jurors told reporters after acquitting Kelly in 2008 that the solitary video could not dispel their doubts, especially when neither the girl nor her parents testified. A juror said: "What we had was not enough".
This time the prosecutors seem to have more. They have at least several prosecutors willing to testify. And they have potentially invigorating evidence, including what they say is Kelly's DNA found in sperm on one of the prosecutor's shirts.
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