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R Kelly ‘offered $1m for return of videotape’, witness tells court

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R Kelly offered $1m for the return of a videotape allegedly featuring an underage girl, a former merchandising agent has claimed at the singer’s latest trial.

Kelly, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence after being convicted in New York in 2021 on charges of using his fame to sexually abuse fans, is now appearing in court in his hometown of Chicago accused of several other federal charges.

The most serious charge is conspiracy to obstruct justice by allegedly successfully rigging a 2008 trial on state child pornography charges – stemming from a purported video of him and a girl having sex when she was underage – at which he was acquitted.

He denies any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, prosecutors introduced evidence apparently demonstrating his alleged desperation in the early 2000s to recover a video after it went missing.

Testifying in court, former merchandising agent Charles Freeman said he located the tape and returned it to the singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.

Asked why it took him two decades to hand the recording over to the authorities, he said that police were not going to give him $1m (about £845,750 today) for the footage – unlike Kelly, he said.

The charges Kelly faces in Chicago include production of child pornography, partly based on this recording.

Earlier in the trial, a woman identified only as “Jane”, now 37 – whom prosecutors say is the girl filmed in the alleged video – told the court that Kelly had sex with her “hundreds of times” before she was 18.

On Monday, the woman’s mother, who used the pseudonym “Susan” in court, gave evidence about Kelly’s 2008 trial.

She said she lied about the singer ahead of it as she and her husband feared for their lives and their daughter’s well-being.

“We were very, very frightened,” she told jurors.

Under cross-examination, Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean repeatedly questioned Susan about whether she truly felt her life was in any danger from Kelly or his associates.

“No one actually threatened you, did they?” Ms Bonjean asked.

“Yes, they did,” Susan replied.

Ms Bonjean also asked why the family continued to mix with Kelly in the years after these events. She told the court that the singer was their sole income for a period, paying her musician husband to work on recordings.

The trial continues.

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