Chicago, IL — A large dose of courtroom drama closed out the second week of R. Kelly’s federal child pornography trial in Chicago at Dirksen U.S. courthouse with a witness who didn’t want to return to the stand for further cross examination, testimony from a man who claimed he was paid $100,000 to give R. Kelly a tape taken from him by Kelly’s ex, and at least one Kelly supporter that has been seen regularly attending the trial being thrown out of proceedings after repeated warnings to maintain decorum.
Keith Murrell — the Kansas City man whom Kelly’s former girlfriend Lisa Van Allen sent a tape to “hold,” which she secretly took from Kelly as it purportedly depicts a threesome between her, the singer, and underage witness “Jane” — testified on Friday. Murrell said he met Kelly while he was in an R&B group called K-OS. After obtaining the singer’s phone number, his group left Kelly a voicemail of them singing, which led to them being invited to Chicago to record music for Kelly’s label in 1997. They later were renamed Talent.
Murrell said he became friends with Van Allen around this time when she and his group were staying at the same hotel. On Thursday, Van Allen, who said she was romantically involved with Kelly for around nine years, testified she had given Murrell a tape she had taken that Kelly had filmed of a threesome between her, Kelly, and underage witness “Jane.” On Friday, Murrell confirmed Van Allen had sent him the tape around 2001.
He said while he did nothing with the tape for six years, he did watch it “right away,” and said it depicted “Lisa, Rob [R. Kelly] and another girl having [oral] sex.” He also showed it to a few other people, including prosecutors’ witness Charles Freeman, who testified earlier in the week.
Then in 2007, Murrell said he was “surprised” when Kelly’s then-business manager McDavid said he knew that he had the tape and claimed Kelly’s co-defendant Milton “June” Brown contacted him about coming to Chicago to give the tape to Kelly’s team. Murrell made a shorter “snippet” of the 15- to 20-minute tape because “I didn’t think they’d know the difference at the time” and he wanted to keep the original. He brought his shortened 8- to 10-minute one to Chicago, he said.
Once he arrived in Chicago, a trip he said was paid for by Kelly’s team, he was subjected to a polygraph test (along with Van Allen who arrived separately), where he was asked if he had made any copies. He failed.
He testified McDavid gave him and Van Allen $20,000 each and told him after he retrieved and delivered the original tape he would receive another $80,000. He said about a week to 10 days later, he returned to Chicago, gave McDavid the original tape, and was paid the rest of the money.
Brown allegedly told him he had the “golden egg” when Murrell arrived with the original in Chicago.
Murrell’s testimony serves as part of the prosecutor’s case against Kelly and his co-defendants McDavid and Brown, who are charged with receiving child pornography as part of an alleged effort to recover missing tapes that allegedly show Kelly engaged in sex acts with minors. Additionally, Kelly and McDavid are facing obstruction of justice charges tied to allegations that they paid off people who knew about Kelly’s alleged abuse and tried to impede the 2008 child pornography investigation into Kelly. All three have pleaded not guilty.
On cross examination, the individual defense teams looked to point out discrepancies from Murrell’s testimony, though much of their respective lines of questioning appeared to take aim at how his statements diverged from Van Allen’s.
This picked up from a contentious start to the tenth day of what’s predicted to be a month-long trial. Following nearly three hours of cross-examination from one of McDavid’s attorneys Beau Brindley on Thursday, Van Allen apparently didn’t want to come to court on Friday, where she would face cross-examination from Kelly’s lead attorney Jennifer Bonjean. “I didn’t want to come, and not coming, are two different things,” Van Allen quipped.
Bonjean highlighted Van Allen’s inconsistencies in reporting her real age when she first met Kelly, having claimed initially that she was 17 at the time both in sworn testimony and elsewhere.
At one point, Van Allen said she didn’t research the years and times things happened before her testimony in Kelly’s 2008 trial because “when I testified, it wasn’t about me. It was about Jane.” Bonjean asserted that Van Allen also sexually abused Jane when she was underage, per her own testimony that claimed she thought Jane was 16 before later learning that she was allegedly age 14 when they first had a sexual encounter together. “This is the person you sexually abused,” Bonjean said.
“I’m not proud of that. I don’t know what woman would be proud of that,” she said while sobbing. “But I am here to admit to my wrongdoings and to hold him accountable for what he’s done. So, you can sit here and try to make me the bad guy all you want.”
It took several minutes before Van Allen regained her composure. Once she did, Bonjean pressed Van Allen’s claims that she needed someone else’s ID to travel to Chicago to meet up with Kelly, implying she was not of age to do so. Van Allen refused to admit there would be no reason for her to need a fake ID given she was already age 18. Bonjean looked up at the courtroom ceiling and grabbed her head in apparent frustration.
Like McDavid’s attorney Beau Brindley the day before, Bonjean also questioned what Jane said is depicted on the tape, suggesting that the tape did not include “Jane” at all, and instead contained a threesome between Kelly, Van Allen, and Kelly’s wife or another consenting adult, which Van Allen again refuted. After more than two hours of cross-examination on Friday, which included questions about the payment Van Allen and Murrell received for the tape she took from Kelly, her decision to ask for Kelly’s help in retrieving it when she claimed she didn’t want him to have possession of it and more queries about inconsistencies in her testimony, Bonjean told the judge “nothing further.” Van Allen exclaimed “Good!” as she beamed a smile at Bonjean who shot her back an admonishing “Ooh!”
Murrell, Van Allen, and Freeman have all been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Friday also included testimony from Preferred Travel’s Debra Rosenblatt, whose testimony appeared to back travel arrangements made on behalf of Kelly and his team during the time period when the tape was being arranged for return.