Business manager

Former R. Kelly business manager shelled out thousands to recover missing tapes, man testifies

CHICAGO — Former R. Kelly business manager paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a man who drove across the country to retrieve video tapes that allegedly showed the now-disgraced R&B superstar engaging in sex acts with a 14-year-old daughter, the man testified on Tuesday.

Over three hours of testimony, Charles Freeman said he was recruited by Derrel McDavid, Kelly’s former business manager, and John “Jack” Palladino, a private detective, to track down two tapes ahead of Kelly’s trial in 2008 for child pornography in Cook County. And although he picked up one in Georgia, Freeman said he made multiple copies of the video and eventually received about half the million dollars he was hoping for.

Testifying under immunity granted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Freeman told jurors that in August 2001, Palladino gave him the address of a house in Georgia where he could find one of these tapes.

After driving home from Kansas City, Mo., Freeman knocked on the door and told the woman who answered, “I’m here to get the m————tapes you stole from Robert Kelly. “

The woman directed Freeman to the living room, where, he said, the video he was looking for was already in a VCR. Freeman said he played that tape and saw two separate scenes where Kelly had sexual contact with “a young girl.” Prosecutors said one of those scenes was a clip from the video at the heart of the Kelly case in 2008.

Freeman said he took two other VHS tapes from inside the house, but later determined they were unrelated to Kelly. From there, Freeman went to a Wal-Mart where he bought three blank VHS tapes and a VCR that allowed him to make copies of the illicit tape he was tasked with finding, he said. .

Assistant United States Attorney Jeannice Appenteng asked Freeman why he made the copies and did not turn them over to law enforcement.

“I didn’t trust Derrel [McDavid] and Jack Palladino to pay me my money,” he said, later adding, “The police weren’t going to pay me $1 million.

During the court’s afternoon break, when Freeman was out of the courtroom, McDavid’s lead defense attorney, Beau Brindley, told U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber that the testimony of Freeman was in “direct contradiction” to previous statements he had made under oath.

In her opening statement last week, Kelly’s lead defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said Freeman “is an extortionist.”

Brindley and Bonjean are expected to cross-examine Freeman when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

Freeman said he originally asked for $1 million to find and return the tape to Georgia. McDavid and Palladino countered with $100,000, plus another $40,000 to cover expenses, and Freeman eventually signed a contract agreeing to those terms. But still, McDavid assured Freeman that he would receive the full $1 million in installments before the Kelly case went to trial in 2008, Freeman said.

Once back in Kansas City from Georgia, Freeman called McDavid and the two arranged another meeting at a hotel, which also included Palladino. Freeman said he hid the tape he retrieved, along with two copies, in his bedroom closet and brought the third copy to the hotel meeting.

During this meeting, McDavid and Freeman argued over how much Freeman would be paid, and Palladino assured Freeman that he would get the million dollars, Freeman said. But two days later, Palladino called him and told him that “Derrel McDavid said it wasn’t the soundtrack,” Freeman said. McDavid and Palladino then returned to Kansas City so they could administer a polygraph test to Freeman, which he eventually passed.

Freeman said Palladino called him later and told him he knew Freeman had made other copies of the tape. Freeman said he gave another copy to Palladino and received an additional $75,000 in return.

In 2002, Freeman filed a lawsuit against Kelly and McDavid, but he said it was “immediately” settled for $100,000. Freeman said McDavid again assured him that he would receive the full million dollars he originally requested. The following year, McDavid paid Freeman an additional $100,000.

In 2003, McDavid contacted Freeman again and asked if he could retrieve another tape that had gone missing, Freeman said. This one depicted Kelly engaging in sex acts with the underage girl seen in the first video, as well as another woman. This gang, McDavid said, might already be in the Kansas City area and “someone [Freeman] might know has this tape.

Freeman then called an associate of his, Keith Murrell, back in Kansas City and learned that he did indeed have the tape. Freeman said Murrell said the tape was sent to him by the adult woman seen in the video. Murrell, Freeman said, had his own separate agreement in place to return that tape to McDavid. Freeman added that he then saved some of that video to his cell phone, which he says was later lost.

Last week, prosecutors said they didn’t know where the tape was, and Kelly’s attorney Bonjean told jurors it never existed.

Shortly before Kelly’s trial began in 2008, Freeman said he was summoned to Chicago to meet with Kelly, who assured him, “You’re going to get your money, Chuck, trust us.” The next day, Freeman said, McDavid gave him $100,000.

As Kelly’s trial was about to begin, Freeman called McDavid and told him he needed the rest of the million dollars owed to him. After “arguing” with McDavid, Freeman said he decided to call a press conference to release “big news about the case” publicly.

The next day, Freeman said, he received a call from Milton “June” Brown, one of Kelly’s aides and the third defendant in the current case. After Freeman spoke with Kelly by phone, Brown gave Freeman an additional $10,000 in cash. The next day, Freeman said, McDavid gave him another $150,000. Freeman then canceled the press conference.

After Kelly’s acquittal in the 2008 trial, Freeman filed another lawsuit against Kelly, McDavid and Brown, he said. This lawsuit was later settled for $125,000.

A federal grand jury in Chicago charged Kelly, 55, on 13 counts in July 2019, accusing him of producing and receiving child pornography, while also inciting minors to engage in illegal sexual activity. Earlier this year, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn after being found guilty of racketeering.

The Grammy-winning and multi-platinum singer – who has remained in police custody since his 2019 arrest – was initially charged with sexually abusing five minors, although a replacement indictment in 2020 added a sixth alleged victim.

Brown and McDavid are charged with one count of conspiracy to receive child pornography, while McDavid also faces two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors allege Kelly and those around him have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to track down videotapes Kelly made that allegedly show him engaging in sexual activity with underage victims.