A former girlfriend of R. Kelly’s sobbed in a federal courtroom Thursday as she testified that Kelly’s longtime business manager told her in 2007 they should have killed her instead of paying her to return an incriminating videotape of Kelly having sex with her and a 14-year-old girl.
Lisa Van Allen, 42, took the witness stand on the ninth day of Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago, where the disgraced R&B star and two associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown,” are accused of conspiring to pay off witnesses and buy back sex tapes to hide years of Kelly’s sexual misconduct.
Van Allen testified that in the late 1990s, she had sexual contact with Kelly and his underage goddaughter at the behest of the singer, who also filmed and directed their encounters.
After she took one of the tapes and sent it to a friend in Kansas City, Kelly offered her $250,000 to get it back, she said.
Near the end of her direct examination, Van Allen broke down in tears as she described how McDavid threatened her at a lawyer’s office in Chicago after she had failed a polygraph test about the tape.
“He said that I failed (the test), and that they should have murked me from the beginning” — that is, they should have killed her.
After that, at McDavid’s behest, she made a false statement to a lawyer denying she ever had any sexual contact with Kelly’s goddaughter, who testified earlier in the trial under the pseudonym “Jane.”
“He told me to say it and I was afraid not to do what he asked,” she said, then broke down crying, bowing her head as she held a shaking hand over her mouth. “I never knew they were thinking about killing me.”
Van Allen said she was upset about that comment, and told McDavid she would tell Kelly about it. “He said Rob knew everything that was going on,” she said, in an emotional voice.
At the defense table, McDavid pursed his lips and turned to Kelly, who was seated behind him, and shook his head slowly.
In a vigorous cross-examination Thursday afternoon, Beau Brindley, an attorney for McDavid, confronted Van Allen about her claim she was threatened, pointing out that McDavid was Kelly’s business manager and suggesting it was all a lie.
“You didn’t have any reason to believe that he was some sort of murderous accountant did you?” Brindley said.
Brindley asked why, if Van Allen’s goal was to keep people from seeing the sex tape, she didn’t just destroy it after she stole it.
“I could’ve if that thought had crossed my mind,” she said. She also denied taking the tape because she wanted to use it to extort Kelly for money.
In perhaps a preview of McDavid’s promised testimony later in the trial, Brindley alleged there was never a tape of Kelly having sex with Van Allen and Jane — instead, Van Allen actually turned over a tape of herself having a threesome with Kelly and his wife. Van Allen flatly denied that.
Brindley also suggested that Van Allen is a serial liar and manipulator.
“A person who feigns emotion while lying to try to manipulate others, is that a person you should trust?” Brindley asked. Van Allen said she didn’t know what he was talking about.
In past statements, Van Allen has consistently said she was 17 when she first met Kelly. On the witness stand Thursday, however, she said that while she thought that was the truth at the time, she now recognizes that she was actually 18.
Brindley accused her of lying about being underage to get attention.
“You wanted to be a victim!” he said. “To sell books!”
The allegation started an uproar of reactions and commentary in the courtroom. On the witness stand, Van Allen shook her head and rolled her eyes slightly.
Brindley also repeatedly questioned Van Allen about discrepancies in statements she’s made about the tape over the years. At one point, when he started asking her about her testimony to a federal grand jury in 2019, Van Allen started to cry.
Brindley asked, sarcastically, whether there was “anything particularly sad” about asking her about her grand jury testimony. “Yes! I’m tired of you asking me whether I watched child pornography!” she cried. Brindley scoffed.
At least twice, prosecutors objected to the questioning, saying Brindley was harassing the witness. And Judge Harry Leinenweber repeatedly told him to move things along more quickly.
To illustrate his points about Van Allen’s potentially inconsistent statements, Brindley displayed for jurors a clip from the “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries.
And for a time after the clip was finished, the screens stayed frozen on an establishing shot — so Van Allen was testifying with the Chicago skyline in the background.
Jurors watched much of Van Allen’s testimony intently, with many taking notes and some leaning forward in their seats, resting notebooks on the bench in front of them.
Van Allen was a controversial witness at Kelly’s first criminal trial in Cook County 14 years ago, which ended in the singer’s acquittal. Like then, Van Allen was testifying Thursday under a grant of immunity from prosecutors.
Van Allen testified she met “Jane,” Kelly’s goddaughter, in 1998. Jane would have been around 14 years old at the time, but Kelly told Van Allen she was 16, Van Allen said.
The three of them had three sexual encounters over the next three years, Van Allen testified, and Kelly filmed all of them.
Van Allen used her hands to mime for the jury the way Kelly would set up the tripod and video camera.
At the beginning of her testimony. Van Allen was calm but somewhat nervous, swiveling in her chair and pausing often to sip from a water bottle.
When she began to discuss the sexual contact with young Jane, her face grew very somber.
During the second filmed threesome, in 1999, Van Allen began crying because she did not want to participate, she testified.
“(Kelly) said ‘what was he going to do with this?’ … I guess ‘cause it wouldn’t have been good footage to watch if I’m on there crying.”
An encounter in 2000 was interrupted by Kelly’s team, Van Allen said. Kelly ordered “Jane” to hide in the bathroom, she testified, a request he did not make of Van Allen.
That same year, Jane told Van Allen that she would be getting a PT Cruiser for her 16th birthday. Van Allen was upset since she had been under the impression Jane was 16 two years earlier, during their first sexual encounter, she testified.
After that, Van Allen said, “I didn’t want to do any more threesomes. I didn’t want to do the first ones, but I definitely didn’t want any more encounters. Because she was 14! She had to be 14.”
Kelly would carry his sex tapes with him in a duffel bag, Van Allen testified. And at some point around the year 2000, she realized she was alone with that bag, and went looking for any tapes she was on.
“I didn’t want him in possession of them,” she said. “I didn’t want him looking at them or having them in his possession.”
Van Allen gave the tape to her friend Keith Murrell, she testified.
It wasn’t until 2007 that she heard there might be copies of the tape for sale, and she grew worried, she said. She did not want it out there, and thought Kelly would help her get it back, she testified.
“He had an upcoming trial for a similar tape, and on this one it actually said how old she was,” she said.
Van Allen met Kelly at his Olympia Fields mansion, where Kelly got in a hot tub with her before offering to give her $250,000 to get the tape back. He also told her to deal with McDavid “from this point forward,” she testified.
After that, she and Murrell brought the tape back and took a series of polygraph tests, she said. They got some of the money from McDavid in return, and Van Allen was told they would get the rest after Kelly’s trial, she said.
After McDavid told her she had failed the third polygraph, she testified, he made the comment about how they should have just killed her.
Van Allen testified Thursday that she met Kelly in 1998, when she was 18. She was introduced to him at a video shoot and not long afterward began traveling to meet him in Chicago, she testified.
Soon afterward, she moved to Chicago outright and began a romantic relationship with Kelly, she testified. Kelly kept making her miss her flights when she visited, she said.
“I told him ‘I couldn’t keep missing my flights, I’ll get fired,’” she testified. “He asked me what did I make and I told him. He ended up just giving me the cash.”
Kelly would direct her on what to do and what to say during their sexual encounters, she testified, and would often videotape them having sex, particularly when they had threesomes, she testified.
Kelly did not allow her to speak to or make eye contact with other men in his presence, she said. He would hit her if she didn’t “listen to Daddy,” she said.
Kelly, 55, is charged with 13 counts of production of child pornography, conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
McDavid and Brown, according to the indictment, schemed to buy back incriminating sex tapes that had been taken from Kelly’s collection and hide years of alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.
Jurors in the closely watched case have so far heard from 14 other witnesses, including Jane, who testified last week Kelly videotaped sexual encounters with her when she was just 14, then pressured and ultimately paid off her and her family to remain silent. Clips from three of those videos were shown to the jury on Friday.
This week has been dominated by another key prosecution witness, Charles Freeman, a Kansas City merchandiser and who told the jury Kelly and his associates agreed to pay him up to a million dollars in the early 2000s to hunt down other incriminating videos before they could be made public.