Members of the media in Chicago caught up with R. Kelly‘s manager for a few minutes of candid talk with a man who said he’s known the disgraced singer for years. On Thursday morning, Chicago TV reporter Tia A. Ewing tweeted three separate video clips from the brief interview with Don Russell, who defended his friend, blamed Kelly’s accusers and implausibly denied that there was ever any sex with any underage girls.
The uncomfortable exchange with the press underscored how — despite decades of apparent proof to the contrary — committed people in Kelly’s camp are to that narrative that the singer was innocent of the sexual abuse charges he was arrested and indicted on last week.
Russell, who has reportedly harassed one of the singer’s accusers, tried to downplay the allegations by suggesting Kelly, himself, was a victim of child sex abuse. “He should be in the room with a psychiatrist, not police,” Russell said.
When confronted with the longstanding rumor that Kelly used to pick up female students from local high schools, Russell said Kelly went there for the sake of his career.
“He wasn’t going to that school because he was targeting somebody … he had a teacher who actually taught him how to play the piano and taught him about music and a lot of things,” Russell said with a straight face. “So he wasn’t going there targeting anybody, he was going there to learn more about his craft.”
When a reporter specifically asked if Kelly had sex with a 14-year-old, which is something he was arrested for on Friday, Russell said, “absolutely not.”
When asked, Russell confirmed there were sex tapes of R. Kelly but suggested that the only reason the X-rated footage was recorded was to prove the sex was consensual. Russell pointed to Mike Tyson as an example of someone who was not able to properly defend himself from his own sex crime charges and ended up being convicted because of it. Not so for Kelly, Russel insisted.
“The videos exist. The only way to prove that [the sex] was consensual is maybe for him to tape it,” Russell said before explaining Kelly was simply following advice. “That’s not what he chose to do, he was advised to do so on some occasions.”
Russell went on defending Kelly in part by blaming at least one of the accusers.
“He’s not a bad person. He’s not the monster that everybody is portraying him to be,” Russell said of the singer before adding, “you gotta think about the agenda of those folks who are targeting him.”
When asked if he thought Kelly was being shaken down, Russell borrowed from the singer’s lawyer and said one of Kelly’s accusers — a “quote-unquote victim” — has a felonious past of “extortion” including bribery and theft. “Why is her rap sheet not in question right now?” Russell wondered aloud.
Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, told reporters last week that he thinks “all the women are lying.”
Likewise, Russell implored the media to “Do the research on the accusers.”
As the interview began to wrap up, Russell confirmed Kelly had money woes, something that was apparent after the singer apparently couldn’t afford bail and needed a friend to pay his bond.
“Anybody who has been targeted with as much conspiracy as [Kelly] has, of course, their finances are gonna be a mess,” Russell said before turning the focus back on what he characterized as false allegations.
“Whoever let the 14-year-old, whatever you guys are saying, whoever let them get in the room…how did they get in there? Why did they get in there?” Russell asked rhetorically, implying that if there was any fault to be had, it belonged to the families of the accusers.
Perhaps most telling was how Russell, who pointed to others, including the music industry, as enabling Kelly, he, himself denied playing any such role.
Asked if he was also “an enabler, Russell said, “absolutely not.”
Kelly’s latest set of sex crime charges — he was acquitted of child porn in 2008 — came after the airing of the “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries that aired early last month. The show — which featured accusers who alleged Kelly did everything from sexually assaulting them to keeping them in a sex cult — prompted Chicago law enforcement to seek out any women who had similar claims. That led to attorney Michael Avenatti announcing two weeks ago that he had acquired a videotape that showed Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. That, in turn, led to the charges Kelly was currently facing.