The Kansas City man at the center of an alleged scheme to hide a sex tape showing R. Kelly in a threesome with a 14-year-old girl told a federal jury on Friday that he only handed over a copy partial strip to Kelly’s associates at first because he “didn’t think they would know the difference”.
Keith Murrell, 45, is a key witness for prosecutors trying to prove that Kelly and his two co-defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, conspired to buy up incriminating tapes and cover up years of sexual misconduct from Kelly.
Murrell’s testimony, which closed the second week of Kelly’s trial at Dirksen’s U.S. courthouse, helped substantiate key elements of the indictment. But he also contradicted another central witness, his friend Lisa Van Allen, on several important points, including why she sent him the tape, the number of sexual encounters she accounted for and whether money was the motivating factor for give it back to Kelly.
Murrell entered court wearing a blue suit and dark sunglasses. He remained gloomy and seemed slightly nervous, a contrast to his friend and previous witness, Charles Freeman, who was laid back and smiling at the helm.
Testifying in a Missouri drawl, Murrell said he met Kelly in the mid-1990s when he was in an R&B group named K-OS. After impressing Kelly with a song they sang into her voicemail, they were flown to Chicago to record with Kelly’s label in 1997, he said.
It was then that Murrell said he met Van Allen, a romantic partner of Kelly’s who testified this week that she had been involved in threesomes with Kelly and her then-underage goddaughter, which Kelly recorded on video.
Murrell said he eventually returned to Kansas City in the early 2000s. While living there, Van Allen sent her a videotape to “hold” for her, which he said he watched while right now. “It was Lisa, Rob and another girl having sex,” he testified.
Murrell said he showed the video to several friends, including Freeman, but never gave it to anyone else. He was stunned in 2007, he said, when McDavid called him out of the blue and told him they knew he had a tape.
Brown called him later and told him to take it to Chicago, but before he left, Murrell made an approximately 8–10 minute copy of the tape to take. “I didn’t think they would know the difference,” he testified.
After flying to Chicago with the copy of the tape, he met Brown and McDavid at a downtown hotel, where he failed a polygraph test when asked if he had made any copies. Murrell said McDavid gave him $20,000 in cash and told him to go back to Kansas City and get the soundtrack, and if he did, he would get a total reward of $100,000. He said McDavid let him know that “they weren’t playing.”
Murrell then returned to Chicago with the soundtrack, he said. When he arrived, Brown told him he had “the golden egg, or something,” Murrell testified. He gave the tape to McDavid, who arranged for him to take a second lie detector test.
After he passed, McDavid “said ‘Thank you’ to me and he shook my hand and hugged me. And then he also gave me the money. Murrell says it was a bag with $80,000 in cash.
In her Thursday testimony, Van Allen sobbed as she described how McDavid threatened her after she failed a polygraph test on the tape, telling her ‘they should have killed me all along’. i.e. they should have killed her.
Murrell said Van Allen never told him about this alleged threat. He was also asked in cross-examination if McDavid had ever threatened him. After initially saying no, Murrell said McDavid drew his attention to a senior member of Kelly’s security team who was also in the room.
“He said if I didn’t come back, this guy here would come to me,” Murrell said.
Murrell admitted during cross-examination that he asked Van Allen to send him the tape because he wanted to see it, and that she never told him there was anything inappropriate. or illegal on it.
When he saw it, it didn’t look like anything criminal, he said. And there was only one sexual encounter on the tape, Murrell said – while Van Allen testified there were three separate scenes, two of which only involved Kelly and her young goddaughter.
Earlier Friday, Van Allen’s continued cross-examination got off to an extraordinarily contentious start. Within 15 minutes, the exchange with Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, had become so argumentative and circular that the judge intervened, and within about 20 minutes the witness broke down in tears.
Van Allen, 42, initially admitted she was ‘exhausted’ and did not want to appear in court on Friday after spending about five hours on the stand the day before.
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, repeatedly noted that Van Allen had said for years that she first met Kelly when she was 17, but during that trial she admitted that she was 18 years old. Authorities had informed her that the filming of the music video where they met was filmed after her 18th birthday.
Bonjean showed growing exasperation with Van Allen’s inability to set a timeline for exactly when she met Kelly and how old she was at the time. At one point, when Van Allen again said she was confused by a question, Bonjean threw her hands up and stared up at the ceiling, letting out a heavy sigh.
“Why would I do all this math when I’m trying to tell the truth? Van Allen said, growing increasingly frustrated. “…When I testified against him, it wasn’t for me. It was about Jane.
Bonjean noted that Jane was underage when Van Allen admitted to having sexual contact with her and Kelly: “Are you here to testify for her? Is this the person you sexually abused?
Van Allen’s lower lip began to quiver. She grabbed a box of tissues and started dabbing at her eyes. Then she collapsed sobbing.
“I’m not proud of it. I don’t know what woman would be proud of that,” she said through tears. “But I’m here to admit my wrongdoing and hold him accountable for what he did, so you can sit here and try to make me the bad guy all you want.”
As Van Allen sobbed for several uncomfortable minutes, Bonjean stood at the lectern with his arms crossed. “Let me know when you’ve calmed down,” she said.
Bonjean also asked Van Allen about how many threesomes she had had with Kelly and where, when and why. She showed Van Allen a statement she gave to authorities in 2019, in which she said she participated in the threesomes because she felt bad that Kelly was sexually abused when he was young.
With that, the jurors learned this traumatic part of Kelly’s story without Kelly needing to speak.
Van Allen said she asked Kelly to help her recover the incriminating video, but Kelly then volunteered to give her some money if she could go get it. It doesn’t make sense, Bonjean hinted, saying, “It only makes sense if it’s money, Ms. Van Allen.”
“It makes sense not to want a sex tape there. Especially with a minor,” Van Allen said.
After just over two hours of questioning, Bonjean told the judge that she had “nothing left”.
“Good,” Van Allen said aloud into the microphone, prompting Bonjean to turn around and say, “Oooh!”
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Van Allen gave him a big smile.
Under re-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien read segments of Van Allen’s testimony to jurors from Kelly’s 2008 trial, to show that his story had remained consistent and was unmotivated. by advertising. Van Allen, at that time, did not have a book deal and had not appeared in television.
The prosecutor’s final questions attempted to combat insinuations from defense attorneys that Van Allen’s displays of emotion were just a bogus show for jurors.
“Were your emotions yesterday wrong? asked Julian.
“No,” Van Allen replied.