R. Kelly’s legal team began its defense of the disgraced singer by calling two allies as witnesses on Monday.
Both men denied ever seeing R. Kelly do anything inappropriate with underage girls. The defense came after weeks of testimony by alleged victims, who accused the singer of sexual abuse and illicit activity with minors.
Dhanai Ramnanan, one of the defense’s witnesses, described R. Kelly as a mentor. He claimed he’d never seen any abuse, noting Kelly always acted politely around women. He even characterized the defendant’s behavior as chivalrous.
Prosecutors pushed back on Ramnanan’s testimony in cross-examination. According to Rolling Stone, Ramnanan couldn’t remember what year he met Kelly or the names of any tours where they were together. The witness also said he worked on music with Kelly, but prosecutors pointed out that no collaboration between the two was ever released.
The prosecution contended Ramnanan wasn’t close to Kelly and was trying to advance his career as an aspiring artist. They repeatedly asked him about wanting to stay on Kelly’s “good side.”
Larry Hood, a former cop, was the other witness for the defense. Hood noted he was a childhood friend of Kelly and later served as a bodyguard for the singer.
Hood initially stated he never saw Kelly around underage girls. He also argued his police background would’ve prompted him to stop any abuse or unseemly behavior.
“As a police officer, I would have had to take action against that,” he testified. “I never had to take any action. I was never made aware of any wrongdoing.”
But during cross-examination, Hood admitted he saw “little Aaliyah” around Kelly in the early 1990s. He confirmed she was around 12 or 13 years old at the time. He said he was unaware of Kelly’s illegal marriage to a 15-year-old Aaliyah until later in his life.
Prosecutors also brought up Hood’s felony conviction for forgery during questioning. Hood said he left the Chicago Police Department “in good standing” in 2007, but the prosecution pointed out how he left the force after pleading guilty to using fake $100 bills.
R. Kelly’s trial is in its final stages with the jury’s deliberations expected to begin by the end of the week. Kelly is facing charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor, sex trafficking and violating the Mann Act, which prohibits sex trafficking across state lines.