Jurors in R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago heard testimony from a fixer and lie detector test administrator Tuesday, Aug. 23, as prosecutors attempted to show how the disgraced singer and his associates allegedly tried to cover up and subvert previous sexual assault and child pornography allegations and investigations.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, the prosecution’s top witness today was Charles Freeman, a fixer of sorts, who did merchandise for Kelly in the Nineties and later became friends with the singer. According to Freeman, Kelly called him around 2001 with a specific task: “recover some tapes.”
Freeman said he then heard from one of Kelly’s co-defendants, Derrel McDavid, as well as the infamous private investigator Jack Palladino, both of whom allegedly told Freeman he would get a “reward” if he retrieved the video (Palladino, who worked for Kelly, as well as Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein, died after being attacked last February.) Freeman claimed he did not know what was on the tape at the time, stating only that McDavid described it as a “performance tape,” and that if Freeman got it back, “they would take care of me.”
In August 2001, Freeman signed a contract saying he’d get $100,000, plus expenses, if he recovered the tape. He also testified that McDavid told him he could earn $1 million for the job, though McDavid allegedly stressed, “We need the originals and make sure this is the actual evidence tape… It would look bad if we gave you a million dollars for a tape and it’s not the tape that we want.”
As for who had the tapes, Freeman said he’d been told that they’d been taken by one of Kelly’s ex-girlfriends, Lisa Van Allen, who’d given them to some people in Atlanta. Freeman said he drove to the house of the people who purportedly had the tape and told the woman who answered the door, “I’m here to recover the MF tapes that y’all stole from Robert Kelly.”
One of the tapes, Freeman said, showed Kelly “with a young lady having sex” (the other two were a Disney movie and a family video, he said). When asked what age the woman looked to him, Freeman replied, “Young.” He also said he made several copies of that video with some blank tapes and a VCR recorder he purchased after retrieving the tapes.
Freeman testified that he still had copies of the tape as recently as 2019, and only turned them over to the authorities, via his lawyer, after he learned the police were looking into him in connection to Kelly. Asked why he didn’t immediately turn the tape over to the cops after getting it in 2001, Freeman replied, “Because the police wasn’t going to pay me a million dollars.”
While Freeman did turn the tape over to McDavid and Palladino, the pair reportedly made him take a lie detector test. Previously, the jury had heard from Lawrence Berkland, a lie detector test administrator, who said an attorney hired him in August 2001 to interview someone about whether they’d made copies of a certain videotape. Berkland said the man he interviewed declined to give his name and was uncooperative until Berkland told him that the attorney who’d hired him said the subject would get $200,000 if he passed the test.
During his testimony, Freeman said after he took his polygraph test, Palladino contacted him and said he knew he had another tape. Freeman said he gave that tape over and got a bag of cash in return.
On top of the 2001 tape retrieval, Freeman said McDavid contacted him again in either late 2003 or early 2004 to recover another tape. “Derrell said it’s another performance tape, sex tape is what he described,” Freeman said. “With Lisa Van Allen, Robert, and the young lady on the tape.” Freeman’s description of the tape reportedly matches the description prosecutors have used for Video 4 — the one tape out of four they don’t have and can’t show to the jury.
Yesterday, Aug. 22, the jury heard some crucial testimony from a woman identified as “Susan,” who is the mother of “Jane,” Kelly’s former goddaughter who claims Kelly began sexually abusing her — and videotaping that abuse — when she was 14. Jane and her family had initially rebuffed investigators looking into the allegations of abuse against Kelly in the early 2000s, and Susan even denied it was Jane in the tape during grand jury hearings at the time. But after Jane testified about her own experiences last week, Susan backed up many of her claims — including that it was her on the video — while on the stand Monday.
Susan said she lied to the grand jury about the video because “we feared for our lives and we were intimidated.” Susan also testified that she felt threatened during a meeting with Kelly and McDavid in the early 2000s, during which the pair allegedly told her she “needed to leave town right away,” and Kelly allegedly asked her, “Are you with us or are you not?”
“They were going to harm us if we didn’t do what they told us to do,” Susan testified. “We were fearful … we packed our bags, and we left town.”