R in a threesome with a 14-year-old girl. A Kansas City man at the center of an alleged scheme to hide a sex tape featuring Kelly told a federal jury Friday that he only gave a partial copy of the tapes to Kelly’s accomplices. At first because he “didn’t think they would know the difference.”
Keith Murrell, 45, is a key witness for prosecutors, who are trying to prove that Kelly and two of his co-defendants, Darrell McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, conspired to buy back the incriminating tapes and cover up years of Kelly’s sexual abuse.
Murrell’s testimony in the second week of Kelly’s trial at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse helped clarify key elements of the indictment. But he contradicted another central witness, his friend Lisa Van Allen, on several key issues, including why she sent him the tapes, the number of sexual encounters it showed and whether money was a motivating factor in returning them to Kelly.
Murrell walked into court wearing a blue suit and dark sunglasses. He remained grim-faced and appeared slightly nervous, in contrast to his friend and former witness Charles Freeman, who was calm and smiling on the stand.
Testifying in Missouri Drool, Murrell said he met Kelly in the mid-1990s when he was in an R&B group called K-OS. After impressing Kelly with a song he sang in his voicemail, he was flown to Chicago in 1997 to record with Kelly’s label, he said.
Around the same time, Murrell said he met Van Allen, one of Kelly’s romantic partners, who testified this week that she participated in a threesome with Kelly and his then-minor goddaughter, which Kelly recorded on video.
Murrell said he eventually moved back 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 immediately. “It was Lisa, Rob and another girl having sex,” he testified.
Murrell said he showed the video to several friends — including Freeman — but did not give it to anyone else. He was stunned in 2007, he said, when McDavid called him out of the blue and said he knew they had a tape.
Brown later called him and asked him to bring it to Chicago, but before he left, Murrell copied about an 8-to-10-minute “snippet” of the tape to bring. “I didn’t think they would know the difference,” he testified.
After flying to Chicago with a copy of the tape, he met with Brown and McDavid at a downtown hotel, where he failed a polygraph test when asked if he had made any copies. Murrell said McDavid paid him $20,000 in cash and told him to go back to Kansas City and retrieve the original tapes, and if he did so, he would receive a total reward of $100,000. He said McDavid informed him that “they weren’t playing.”
Murrell later went back to Chicago with the original tape, he said. When he arrived, Brown told him he had “a golden egg or something like that,” Murrell testified. He gave the tape to McDavid, who arranged for him to take another lie detector test.
After he left, McDavid “told me ‘thank you’ and shook my hand and gave me a hug. And then he paid me. Murrell says it was a bag containing $80,000 in cash.
In her testimony Thursday, Van Allen cried as she described how McDavid threatened her after she failed a polygraph test about the tapes, telling her “they should have screwed me from the start” — meaning they should have killed her.
Murrell said Van Allen never told him about the alleged threat. He was asked on cross-examination if McDavid had ever threatened him. After initially saying no, Murrell said McDavid pointed out an older member of Kelly’s security team who was in the room.
“He said if I didn’t come back, this guy would come see me,” Murrell said.
Murrell admitted on cross-examination that he asked Van Allen to send the tapes because he wanted to see them, and that she never told him there was anything improper or illegal about them.
It didn’t look like anything criminal when he saw it, he said. And there was only one sexual encounter on the tape, Murrell said — while Van Allen testified that it was three separate scenes, two of which were just Kelly and his young daughter.
Earlier Friday, the continuing cross-examination of Van Allen got off to an unusually contentious start. Within 15 minutes, Kelly’s exchange with attorney Jennifer Bonjean had grown so contentious and circular that the judge intervened and the witness broke down in tears about 20 minutes in.
Van Allen, 42, initially admitted she was “tired” and didn’t want to be in court Friday after spending about five hours on the stand the day before.
Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean repeatedly noted that Van Allen had said for years that she first met Kelly when she was 17, but admitted at the trial that she was 18. Officials informed her that the music video shoot where they met was filmed after her 18th birthday.
Bonjean shows increasing anger as Van Allen fails to create a timeline of exactly when he met Kelly and how old she was at the time. At one point, as Van Allen reiterated that she was confused by a question, Bonjean threw her hands in the air and looked up at the ceiling with a heavy sigh.
“Why should I do all this math when I’m trying to tell the truth?” Van Allen said in frustration. “… she was not for me when I testified against him. It was about Jane.”
Bonjean reported that Jane was a minor when Van Allen admitted to having sex with her and Kelly: “You’re here testifying for her? Is this the person you sexually abused?”
Van Allen’s bottom lip trembled. She took a box of tissues and started looking into her eyes. Then she collapsed crying.
“I’m not proud of it. I don’t know which woman would be proud of that,” she said through tears. “But I’m here to admit my mistake and hold him accountable for what he did, so you can sit here and try to make me out to be the bad guy.”
As Van Allen wept for several uncomfortable minutes, Bonjean stood at the lectern with her arms crossed. She said, “Tell me when you composed music yourself.”
Bonjean questions Van Allen about how many threesomes Kelly has had and where and when and why. She showed Van Allen a statement she gave to authorities in 2019, in which she said she participated in the threesome because she felt bad that Kelly had been molested as a child.
With that, jurors have learned about that traumatic part of Kelly’s history, Kelly need not take the stand.
Van Allen said she reached out to Kelly for help in getting the incriminating video back, but Kelly later volunteered to pay her to get it back. That doesn’t make sense, Bonjean suggests: “It doesn’t make sense unless it’s all about the money, Ms. Van Allen.”
“It makes sense not to have sex tapes in there. Especially with minors,” Van Allen said.
After more than two hours of questioning, Bonjean told the judge she had “nothing further.”
“Good,” Van Allen boomed into the microphone, prompting Bonjean to squirm and say, “Whoah!”
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Van Allen gave her a big smile.
On redirect examination, Assistant US Attorney Jason Julian read to jurors sections of Van Allen’s testimony from Kelly’s 2008 trial, to show that her story remained consistent and was not motivated by publicity. Van Allen, at the time, did not have a book deal and was not on television.
The prosecutor’s closing questions sought to counter defense attorneys’ allegations that Van Allen’s display of emotion was just a fake show for jurors.
“Were your feelings fake yesterday?” Julian asked.
“No,” Van Allen replied.