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R. Kelly trial: Prosecutors continue to make case that singer tried to cover up incriminating sex tapes

Witness in R. Kelly trial says he was paid to recover child sex tape 02:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Testimony resumed Tuesday in R. Kelly's federal trial in Chicago, as prosecutors continue to build their case that Kelly and two associates conspired to cover up videotapes showing the singer sexually assaulting girls, and rigged his 2008 trial in Cook County when he was acquitted of child pornography charges.

Jurors on Tuesday heard testimony from Charles Freeman, a onetime Kelly associate who said he was hired by Kelly's business manager, Derrel McDavid, and private investigator, Jack Paladino, to retrieve a tape that might be incriminating against Kelly.

Freeman said he was sent to Atlanta to retrieve one tape that turned out to show a "young lady," and he said Kelly was seen "having sex, urinating on her, and putting lotion on her face."  Freeman also quoted what he said was a reference on the tape to the girl who appeared in it being 14 years old.

He testified he got into multiple disputes about being paid for his work to retrieve the tape, and ended up suing Kelly and two other associates. The suit was later settled.

Monday's testimony centered on the mother of the prosecution's star witness, "Jane," who testified last week that Kelly sexually assaulted her hundreds of times when she was a girl in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and often videotaped the abuse.

Jane's mother, who is testifying under the pseudonym "Susan," told jurors Kelly threatened their family to keep the abuse secret, and paid for them to go to the Bahamas and Cancun when one of the tapes surfaced in 2002.

The family denied for years that Kelly had sexually abused Jane, but has begun cooperating with federal prosecutors, and has told jurors Kelly and his team threatened them and paid them off to cover up his abuse.

Tuesday's testimony also included a lie detector test administrator, Lawrence Berkland. It was a short trial day, with testimony expected to wrap up around 2 p.m.

Kelly is on trial on a 13-count indictment, including child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. Two associates, McDavid and former assistant Milton Brown, are being tried alongside him. 

The trial is expected to last four weeks, and prosecutors are expected to call from more women who accuse Kelly of sexually abusing them when they were girls.


Former R. Kelly associate testifies on being hired to retrieve sex tape showing 'young lady'

Jurors in the R. Kelly trial heard testimony Tuesday from Charles Freeman, a private investigator who said he was hired as to find and recover any video that might incriminate Kelly and who later sued Kelly for not paying him in full.

Freeman, 52, said he is a resident of Kansas City, Missouri. He said back in 1991, he had a company where staff took pictures at nightclubs and concerts, and he came into contact with Kelly while working with the company.

Freeman said he met Kelly while playing basketball in the midst of a merchandising tour, and they became "cool and friends." Freeman said he also met Kelly's business manager, Derrel McDavid, in 2000.

Freeman said he first got a call from Kelly around January or February 2001, asking him to recover stolen tapes that Kelly had lost. He said he was told he would hear from McDavid and from Kelly's private investigator, Jack Paladino – and he claimed Paladino offered him a reward.

Freeman said he met with McDavid and Paladino at a Kansas City hotel, where he was asked what he would charge to recover the tapes. He said he brought people with him to the hotel for "protection."

Freeman said he told them he would charge $1 million – and said he would not do the job if not paid $1 million. Freeman said a screaming match ensued at the hotel.

Later, Freeman said, he got a call from Paladino saying they needed to work something out. Freeman said he asked for a contract.

Freeman said in a second meeting with McDavid and Paladino in another hotel room, he brought a contract to sign saying they would pay him $1 million. He said they refused to sign it and told him they would send their own contract.

Freeman said Paladino told him the tapes they wanted him to recover were in Atlanta, Georgia, and he would need to go there to get them.

At yet another meeting, Freeman said, Paladino presented him with a contract – which said he would be given $100,000 to retrieve the tapes and $40,000 for expenses. He said he did not sign the contract right away, but eventually did.

Freeman said he confronted McDavid about the fact that the contract was not for $1 million, to which McDavid said it would look bad if they paid him $1 million upfront and he ended up bringing back the wrong tape.

Freeman said he was told to recover a tape that had been stolen from Kelly by his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Van Allen, but nothing much was described as to what was on the tape.

Freeman testified that he went to Atlanta and with an address in hand that Paladino provided to recover the tape. The address turned out to be a house outside of Atlanta – where Freeman said a young woman came to the door when he knocked.

Freeman said he told the young woman he had come to recover the "MF tapes you stole from Robert Kelly." The young woman put her hands up, pointed at a TV, and, and walked out of the room, Freeman said.

Freeman said he walked up to the TV and found two tapes sitting on a stand and one leaning outside a VCR. He said he put the latter tape into the VCR to watch it, and upon seeing Kelly on the tape, he took it out of the VCR and grabbed it – along with the other two.

Freeman later bought a VCR and blank tapes at a Walmart in Marietta, Georgia, and went to a friend's house – where he screened all three tapes. One turned out to be a Disney movie, another was a family video of someone he didn't know, and the third was the one Kelly and McDavid wanted him to recover, he said.

The tape showed Kelly with a "young lady," and Kelly was seen "having sex, urinating on her, and putting lotion on her face," Freeman said.

Freeman said the tape first showed a room with a black and white checkered floor with a TV, then switched to a bedroom. He said Kelly was heard giving the "young lady" orders, and she said, "Daddy my hair is messing up, I have to go to school tomorrow." Freeman also quoted what he said was a reference on the tape to the body parts of the girl who appeared in it being 14 years old.

Freeman said he made three copies of the tape, because he did not trust McDavid or Paladino. When asked if he still had copies of the tape in 2019, he said he turned them over to his attorney – after his name came up that he was holding child pornography for Kelly.

Freeman said his attorney came to Chicago to get him immunity for the tapes he had, and two of the tapes were turned over to law enforcement. He said he observed one of the tapes before testifying on Tuesday – and the tape was presented in court as an exhibit.

Freeman said he brought the tapes back to Kansas City and put them in a closet in his house. He said he did not tell police about them, "because the police wasn't going to pay me $1 million."

Freeman said he called McDavid, who came to Kansas City to meet him at the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza. Freeman said he left three tapes in his closet and only took one with him.

McDavid and Paladino sat at a table at the hotel and told Freeman and a man he brought as "backup muscle" named Jamar to sit across from them, Freeman said. Paladino and McDavid said they wanted to see what Freeman had recovered, and they then asked Freeman and Jamar to leave the room so they could review it, Freeman said.

Freeman said he and Jamar were later ushered back into the room, and Freeman said he needed to get paid. McDavid and Paladino said they needed to bring the tape back to Kelly so he could confirm it was the original tape, Freeman said.

At that point, Freeman said he got into a shouting match with McDavid about his not having the money, and Freeman said he "snatched the tape" and left. He said McDavid and Paladino told him to calm down, and they just had to make sure there were no copies and he was giving them the original tape.

Freeman said he went on to give the men back the tape, and got nothing in return. But he said he told them, "You better keep your word."

Freeman said he called Paladino's office two days later and was told they would be back in Kansas City to give him the money. But he said McDavid and Paladino later told him over the phone they had determined the tape he gave them was not the original.

McDavid and Paladino called Freeman after arriving in Kansas City, and told him to meet them at a polygrapher office in Mission, Kansas, Freeman said. The polygrapher administered a polygraph test and asked Freeman questions about whether he made copies of the tape or showed it to anyone, and then told McDavid Freeman had passed the test, Freeman said.

Freeman said he then got a call from Paladino and acknowledged he did, in fact, have another tape. He said he was told to bring that tape and he would be paid.

Freeman went to another meeting with McDavid and Paladino at a Hyatt Regency, bringing Jamar with him. He said he saw a gun on a bed when he arrived.

Freeman asked where the money was, and was directed to two brown bags. He said he knew those brown bags did not contain $1 million, but McDavid and Paladino claimed it was the amount they had agreed to in the contract.

Freeman said McDavid shook his hand and said they would give him the rest of the money. He said he then took the tape – which he had concealed between his pants and his rear end, and handed it to Paladino.

Going down the elevator, Freeman said he counted the cash in the bags, which amounted to $75,000.

Freeman said he went on to file a lawsuit to get the rest of the money. He said the suit was settled with McDavid's agreement that Freeman would be paid $100,000 every other year until Kelly went to court.

In late 2003 or early 2004, Freeman said McDavid contacted him again to recover another tape. Freeman said he expected to be paid again if he did so.

Kelly said McDavid told him there was another sex tape in which Kelly, Van Allen, and the "young lady" from the earlier tape appeared. Freeman said he told McDavid he would need another $1 million for the tape.

Freeman said he met with McDavid in Olympia Fields, and McDavid told him this second tape was in Kansas City. Freeman said McDavid told him the tape was silent, and shows the 14-year-old girl receiving oral sex from Van Allen while Kelly stands behind her.

Freeman said he called some people from a specific group McDavid mentioned to ask about the tape – including his own friend Keith Murrell. He said he talked to Murrell, who confirmed Van Allen had mailed him a tape of the description McDavid had provided, and who said Van Allen "knew it was a young girl and didn't want it getting out there."

Murrell lived in the same apartment complex as Freeman, and they met there, Freeman said. Freeman said the man let him watch some of the tape, and a day later, Murrell took him to a friend's office to make a copy "to get some money."

Freeman said there was later another meeting at Kelly's house in Olympia Fields for which Kelly himself was present. Freeman said he met Kelly in an "ice cream room" – essentially an ice cream shop inside Kelly's house.

At this meeting, Freeman said Kelly told him they were friends, and also told him to tell McDavid the truth. Freeman said Kelly wanted to make sure Freeman wasn't working with Chicago Police.

Freeman said there were further discussions about payment in which he emphasized that he had not been paid in full, and he assured Kelly he would not rat him out.

Freeman said McDavid then brought everyone to the bathroom, and said everyone was going to take all their clothes off and get in a nearby rainforest pool to ensure nobody was wearing a wire. Freemans aid he took off his shirt and kept his shorts on, while McDavid stripped to his underwear and got in the pool. He said McDavid assured him he would get the rest of his money.

McDavid then told Freeman to follow him in his car, and McDavid threw a brown bag of money through the car window.

Before Kelly's 2008 child pornography trial connected to the tape involving the 14-year-old girl began, Freeman said he called McDavid again and said he wanted the rest of the money. Freeman also said he was going to hold a "press conference" about the trial.

Freeman said he was handed $10,000 more by Kelly's assistant, Milton "June" Brown, and did not go through with the press conference. He said McDavid went on to give him between $150,000 and $170,000.

After Kelly was acquitted in the 2008 trial, Freeman said McDavid told him Kelly had said "the bank is closed." Freeman said he then sued McDavid, Kelly, and Brown.

The suit was settled and Freeman said he did not have contact with them afterward.

Freeman acknowledged that he did not call the police about the illegal activity that appears on the tapes at any point between 2009 and 2019. He said the reason was he believed he was going to be paid – and he said he told them he wouldn't tell on anyone unless the police came after him.

By Tara Molina

Polygraph expert testifies about lie detector test regarding a "performance tape"

Tuesday's testimony began with two polygraph experts, including John Hurlock, who said he administered a lie detector test in 2001 to a man who would only identify himself as "Showtime," who had returned a copy of a video to Kelly.

Hurlock said he didn't know what was on the tape, and never watched the video, which the man referred to as a "performance tape."

Hurlock said he was hired by Kelly's private investigator, Jack Paladino, and is not personally familiar with Kelly.

By CBS Chicago Team
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