United Kingdom

R Kelly prosecution case rests: Defense calls mentee who knew singer for 15 years and felon ex-cop

Prosecutors rested their case against R. Kelly Monday morning after 20 days of testimony from accusers detailing the harrowing sexual abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of the disgraced singer - and now two witnesses have come to Kelly's defense.

Immediately after jurors heard the final account from federal prosecutors' forty-fifth witness against the R&B star in a Brooklyn court, the defense proceeded to call the first of their own series of witnesses to the stand in an effort to cast some doubt on the slew of allegations.  

The first witness to take the stand in Kelly's defense, Dhanai Ramnanan, or 'Da-Ni,' a failed aspiring rapper, called Kelly his mentor, and said that he worked with the star for upwards of 15 years, starting in 2003.

Since his trial began in Brooklyn federal court back in August, several witnesses have testified that Kelly sexually and physically abused them. The disgraced singer currently faces racketeering and sex-trafficking charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty

Ramnanan proceeded to tell jurors that he was never on the singer's payroll and had no day job. 

When asked what he did for Kelly in the years he spent in his inner sanctum, the witness responded simply that it was his job 'to observe and to learn and to become.'

Ramnanan told the court that he spent 15 years following R. Kelly around his homes and on tour, but never saw Kelly asserting himself as an authority figure over women, and that he never witnessed Kelly degrade them or tell them how to behave.   

Dhanai Ramnanan, or 'Da-Ni,' a failed aspiring rapper who called Kelly his mentor, told jurors that it was his job 'to observe and to learn and to become,' during his 15 years working for Kelly

Kelly faces racketeering and sex-trafficking charges, accused of sexually abusing numerous young women and two men, and of directing employees to procure women for perverse sexual acts in what amounted to a criminal 'enterprise.' 

Specifically, witness statements allege that Kelly had his entourage lock a radio station intern in a room where the performer proceeded to have sex with her while she was passed out; that he gave several of them herpes without disclosing he had an STD; that he personally shot a disturbing, shaming video of one alleged victim depicting her smearing feces on her face in a demeaning manner, and committed an array of other sick, sexual misdeeds. 

The singer has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Kelly was accused of upholding his girlfriends to a strict set of rules concerning what they should wear, when they could use the restroom, and where they could sleep and reside in his several homes and studios. 

Multiple women testified that the star made them wait for days in a room before giving them permission to relieve themselves.

Ramnanan denied this was the case.

When defense attorney Calvin Scholar asked Ramnanan if Kelly ever asked him to have sex with any of his girlfriends, Ramnanan replied, 'No. No. No.'

Ramnanan told jurors that he regularly witnessed female guests come and go from Kelly's homes as they please on several instances, and use the restroom without hindrance. And when eating with the star, Ramnanan described the women being encouraged to order first when they went out to restaurants, calling it 'chivalry, basically.'

However, Ramnanan admitted to prosecutors that he wasn't with Kelly when he was alone with his girlfriends, nor was he accompanying the singer at all times.

What's more, when the prosecutor observed that Ramnanan was dependent on Kelly for his success as a musician, Ramnanan agreed.

But Ramnanan has yet to release any music professionally, even after his 15-year collaboration with Kelly - and defense attorney Calvin Scholar even attempted to get him some exposure with a courtroom viewing, after Ramnanan mentioned he had brought in one of the songs he and Kelly had worked on.

'Would be possible for him to ...' Scholar began to ask Judge Ann Donnelly, before being cut off.

'No. Denied,' she answered, decisively.

The defense's second witness, Larry Hood, a former Chicago Police officer who moonlighted as security for Kelly in the 90s and early 2000s, said he ever saw his friend abuse any women

The defense's second witness, Larry Hood, a former Chicago Police officer who moonlighted as security for Kelly in the 1990s and early 2000s, told jurors that he never once witnessed Kelly misbehaving with underage girls. 

At times, he said, several 'fellow officers' from the force would join him in serving on Kelly's personal security detail. 

Hood, however, admitted during the prosecution's cross-examination that the police department fired him in 2007 after he pleaded guilty and was promptly convicted in a counterfeit money case - after first saying he left the force on good terms. 

When questioned on whether he had spoken truthfully while under oath regarding his dismissal, Hood floundered, responding in an incoherent manner. He then attested that he was testifying under oath about Kelly. 

When a defense attorney asked if he ever saw his friend abuse any women or lock anyone in a room, Hood responded, firmly, 'No, sir.'

He then added: 'As a police officer, I would have had to take action against that.'

Hood also testified that he'd never seen the singer in the company of underage girls - a claim he almost immediately and repeatedly contradicted in his statement to jurors.  

Hood admitted to meeting Aaliyah - who was illegally wed to Kelly in 1994 after Kelly allegedly bribed a government employee for a fake ID for the late R&B singer - and some of her 'little friends' around the same time that he met Kelly in the early '90s, which prosecutors pointed out would have meant she would have been only 12 or 13.

Hood admitted this was the case.

'Yeah, approximately,' he told the prosecution. 'She was a young lady, yes.' 

Aaliyah was illegally wed to Kelly in 1994, after Kelly allegedly bribed a government employee for a fake ID for the late R&B singer. She died in a plane crash over the Bahamas in 2001

Hood appeared to grow somewhat hesitant when questioned by prosecutors on whether or not he was aware Kelly had married Aaliyah when she was just 15, first asserting that he didn't understand the question, before stating that he 'wasn't there' when the wedding took place. 

When cross-examined concerning whether he had known that the marriage transpired or not, he said he only became aware it occurred 'later in life.' 

Hood was also questioned about Aaliyah’s 1994 album, which was produced by Kelly, and its titular hit, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. 

Prosecutors relayed to Hood that the song is about a young girl attempting to seduce an older man despite their drastic age difference. When asked whether it was true that Aaliyah was about 14 when she recorded it, Hood replied, 'Approximately, yes.'

The defense is expected to call at least four more witnesses. 

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