Former R. Kelly Associate Testifies He Sought $1 Million to Recover Alleged Child Porn Tape


A former associate of R. Kelly said the singer and his co-defendants repeatedly paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover an illicit sex tape Kelly allegedly filmed himself that depicted sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl.

Charles Freeman, who worked for Kelly as a merchandiser in the 1990s, testified on the seventh day of the singer’s federal child pornography trial in downtown Chicago that he asked Kelly and his associates for $1 million to recover an illicit sex tape in the early 2000s.

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Kelly was charged in 2019 over allegations that he sexually abused multiple minors and recorded some of those acts on video.

Two former employees of the singer’s music business, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, are also charged with conspiring to conceal evidence to obstruct law enforcement during the investigation that preceded Kelly’s 2008 child porn trial in Cook County.

Freeman, who is testifying under an immunity agreement, spent most of his time on the witness stand Tuesday discussing his efforts to recover those videos and extract payments from Kelly through his associates.

Freeman said McDavid and Jack Palladino, a private investigator who worked for Kelly, reached out to him in 2001 and asked him to travel to Atlanta to recover a “performance tape” that allegedly included two separate sex scenes involving Kelly and a minor.

He testified that he signed a contract with those men that August that would pay him $140,000 to cover his payment and expenses. But Freeman said the men assured him he would eventually get the full $1 million he had asked for.

Freeman, who claimed he did not know what was on the tape when he was hired to find it, testified that he went to Atlanta and recovered the video from a home. He said he then immediately made three other VHS copies after viewing its contents.

While he turned over the video he recovered to Palladino and McDavid, he testified that he kept the other copies himself as insurance in case he didn’t get his full payment.

A couple of years later, either in 2003 or 2004, Palladino reached out to Freeman again, he testified, this time to track down a second tape that allegedly showed Kelly with the same minor and an 18-year-old girl.

Freeman again asked for $1 million, but never did recover the tape.

Over the subsequent years, Freeman repeatedly pressured Kelly, through McDavid, to get the rest of the money he was owed, going so far as to file lawsuits against Kelly in 2002 and in 2009. The singer settled both those suits immediately, paying out some $225,000 between them, and agreed to pay Freeman additional money.

During Kelly’s 2008 trial, Freeman said he planned a news conference to announce that he had the videos, but Kelly allegedly paid him another $150,000 to cancel it. Freeman said he held on to his copies until 2019 when he gave them to his attorney to turn over to law enforcement.

The minor who allegedly appeared in these videos testified last week using the pseudonym “Jane” and said she was 14 years old when Kelly videotaped himself sexually assaulting her multiple times inside his Chicago home. “Jane” told jurors Kelly began pushing for a sexual relationship with her just weeks after becoming her godfather, and that he sexually abused her “hundreds” of times while she was a minor.

“Jane’s” mother, who used the pseudonym “Susan,” testified Monday that her husband and Kelly were crying when the parents confronted the Grammy-winner at a hotel in the early 2000s about whether he was abusing their daughter. She testified they were startled when Kelly told them, “You are with us or against us.”

She said she took those words to mean “that they were going to harm us if we didn’t do what they wanted us to do.”

Among the directives from Kelly and an associate was that they had to lie that their daughter was not in a child pornography video and that they had to leave the country immediately for several weeks, she testified.

“We were very, very frightened,” she told jurors.

Kelly went to trial on child pornography charges stemming from these same video tapes in 2008 in Cook County. “Jane” did not testify at that trial, and Kelly was ultimately acquitted.

Freeman is expected to continue his testimony Wednesday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431


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