In Turnabout, a Key Witness Is Cooperating in R. Kelly Case


The tape, sold as a bootleg on the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, was notorious: It showed the R&B singer R. Kelly having sex with and urinating on a girl who prosecutors said was barely a teenager.

But although the tape was shown at Mr. Kelly’s ensuing child pornography trial in 2008, the girl and her immediate family refused to testify, a choice that was seen as crucial to the decision to acquit him.

In a sign of how dramatically Mr. Kelly’s fortunes have changed, a lawyer for that girl, now a woman in her 30s, said on Tuesday that she was cooperating with federal investigators.

The extent of her cooperation was not immediately clear, but the statement from her lawyer, Christopher L. Brown, came just days after Mr. Kelly was accused in a federal indictment of paying the girl and her father to stay quiet, and in some cases to lie to investigators to protect him.

Mr. Kelly was known to record his sexual encounters, and during his 2008 trial, expert witnesses for the prosecution said that the tape was a copy, but that it had not been tampered with. Fourteen witnesses identified the girl in the video, who was believed to be around 14 at the time it was made.

But the girl and her family did not testify, and Mr. Kelly’s powerful team of defense lawyers convinced the jury that they could not know for sure who the girl in the tape was. (They also argued that it couldn’t be proved that the man was Mr. Kelly, despite the presence of a mole on the man’s back that prosecutors said matched the singer’s.)

Several jurors said after the trial that the girl’s refusal to testify made it difficult to convict him.

Mr. Kelly went on to record several more albums, but accusations against him continued to mount, in articles by the journalist Jim DeRogatis and in a widely-watched documentary on Lifetime, “Surviving R. Kelly,” which aired in January. The following month, Mr. Kelly was hit with the first of his new wave of charges in state court in Chicago.

According to a federal indictment unsealed last week, Mr. Kelly gave the girl and her family gifts and money both before and after the trial so she would lie to investigators or be unavailable for questioning, and so she would not testify against him. Neither the girl nor anyone else in her family was charged.

On Tuesday, when asked about the woman’s reversal about cooperating with the prosecution, Mr. Kelly’s lawyer said simply, “I don’t know anything about it.”



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