- An aspiring artist who goes by “DA-NI” was the first witness called by R. Kelly’s defense team.
- He testified Monday that he never saw R. Kelly tell the women who lived with him how to behave.
- The artist said he followed Kelly for 15 years to “observe, learn, and become,” but was never on the singer’s payroll.
- The artist was the first witness called by Kelly’s defense team.
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An aspiring artist who goes by “DA-NI” and spent 15 years following R. Kelly around his homes and on tour testified Monday that he never saw Kelly prevent any of his girlfriends from coming and going, or tell them how to behave.
DA-NI, whose real name is Dhanai Ramnanan, was the first witness called by Kelly’s defense team after 19 days of testimony from witnesses for the prosecution.
Prosecutors have accused Kelly of sexually abusing numerous young women and two men, and of directing employees to procure women for sex in what amounted to a criminal organization. Kelly pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.
Former employees and accusers testified in recent weeks that Kelly controlled his girlfriends with a strict set of rules about what they should wear, when they could use the restroom, and where they could stay in his homes and studios. Some former girlfriends had testified that they were made to wait for days in a room for Kelly to return and give them permission to use the restroom.
Ramnanan, who often rambled on beyond the scope of what was asked of him while testifying, told the jury he introduced himself to Kelly at a mall in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He offered to make Kelly his “guest” by arranging a private basketball court and a screening of the movie “Radio,” which came out in 2003.
Kelly then invited Ramnanan to visit him at his homes and at his concerts, which the aspiring artist did for 15 years while attempting to collaborate with Kelly on a music “project.”
Ramnanan was unable to remember which tours he went on with Kelly. When asked what job he performed for the singer, Ramnanan said it was to “observe, learn, and become,” acknowledging he was never on Kelly’s payroll.
Defense attorney Calvin Scholar asked Ramnanan if Kelly ever asked him to have sex with any of his girlfriends.
“No. No. No,” he responded.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution asked Ramnanan whether he ever had a sexual relationship with Kelly himself.
Ramnanan told the jury he saw female guests come and go from Kelly’s homes, use the bathroom, and eat in Kelly’s presence. He described the women being allowed to order first when they went out to restaurants, calling it “chivalry, basically.”
All of Kelly’s guests were expected to knock before they entered rooms, which Ramnanan said was to prevent interrupting live recordings. On one occasion, he said he was made to wait for days to see Kelly, but understood the singer was busy with music.
On cross examination, prosecutor Maria Cruz Melendez had Ramnanan admit that he wasn’t with Kelly when he was alone in rooms with his girlfriends, nor was he with Kelly at all times.
When the prosecutor pointed out that Ramnanan was dependent on Kelly for his success as a musician, and often used Kelly’s name to promote his music, Ramnanan agreed.
Yet after 15 years collaborating with Kelly, the music he said they worked on together has never been released.
Ramnanan told the jury that he brought a song he worked on with Kelly to court.
“Would be possible for him to…” Scholar began to ask Judge Ann Donnelly, before she interrupted.
“No. Denied,” she said, promptly.