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Closing arguments begin in R Kelly trial

By | Published on Thursday 23 September 2021

R Kelly

The defence has already finished presenting its case in the big R Kelly trial, calling just five men to testify in their bid to dispute the numerous allegations of abuse made against the musician in the first phase of the court hearing. As a result, closing arguments are now underway.

The five men called to testify in Kelly’s defence had all worked with the musician in one form or another over the years, and basically took to the stand to say they’d never witnessed the star abusing any of the people in his entourage.

For their part, the prosecution questioned how much time each defence witness actually spent in Kelly’s company, the argument being that the abuse likely occurred when they simply were not present. In some cases they also argued that the witnesses had personal reasons for wanting Kelly acquitted – either professionally or simply as fans of his work – or were otherwise unreliable witnesses.

The first defence witnesses, who testified on Monday, were aspiring rapper and self-declared Kelly protege Dhanai ‘Da-Ni’ Ramanan, and former police officer Larry Hood, a school friend of Kelly who also worked in a security role for the star. The former struggled to identify which of Kelly’s tours he’d been on, despite claiming to be a “constant presence” in the star’s life. The latter admitted that he left the Chicago police department after being convicted of using forged banknotes.

On Tuesday, testimony came from audio engineer Jeff Meeks who worked with Kelly for fifteen years. Although there to say he’d never seen any abuse when in Kelly’s company, his testimony wasn’t especially strong. He denied that women were held against their will at Kelly’s studio, but the prosecution reminded him that he once told a federal agent about an incident when a woman requested to leave said studio, and the stress that had caused. He wasn’t sure what to do, he’d admitted, and felt relief once permission was granted for the woman to leave the building.

Asked whether Kelly enforced control over the lives of his girlfriends, for example over when they were allowed to eat – as has been repeatedly alleged – Meeks ultimately admitted that he wasn’t sure whether such rules existed. He assumed everyone ate when at Kelly’s studio, he said, but added: “I guess I don’t know… I’m sure everybody was eating”.

The other defence witnesses were music consultant Julius Darrington and accountant John Holder. The former also said he’d never witnessed Kelly abusing anyone, but then admitted that he’d never been present when Kelly engaged in sexual activity.

The latter was really testifying to counter the allegation that his client ran a criminal enterprise designed to enable him to abuse young women and men.

However, the prosecution presented a diagram prepared by Holder that confirmed Kelly was, at least, running an enterprise, the diagram outlining the organisation of the star’s company RSK Enterprises LLC. The allegation is that this organisation – although also existing to manage Kelly’s commercial operations – had another more sinister objective.

It had been speculated that the defence might call to testify a former girlfriend of Kelly’s who would give a more positive spin on being in a relationship with the star. The most likely candidate would have been Joycelyn Savage, who defended the musician multiple times when the criminal charges first started to mount in 2019. She also distanced herself from a Patreon account set up in her name that made allegations of abuse against the star similar to those made by other alleged victims.

However, in the end, no such witness was called, and after Kelly confirmed he did not intend to testify himself, the defence wrapped up its case.

In closing arguments, the prosecution told the jury that it had delivered on its promise to prove that Kelly had, for decades, run a criminal enterprise in which close associates were ordered to help him target, groom and exploit girls, boys, and young women for his own sexual gratification.

Proving that Kelly built and ran an organisation to facilitate and hide his prolific abuse of young people, often teenagers, within his inner circle is key to convicting the star of all the charges he faces, which include things like federal racketeering charges in addition to those directly linked to the abuse itself.

And it was because of that carefully orchestrated and managed organisation, Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes told the court yesterday, that this abuse could continue for so long. “The defendant set rules, lots of them, and he demanded complete obedience”, she told the jury. As a result “for many years what happened in the defendant’s world stayed in the defendant’s world … but no longer”.