Defense lawyer compares R. Kelly to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mike Pence in closing argument

R kelly trial illustration
Singer R. Kelly attends Brooklyn’s Federal District Court during the start of his trial in New York, U.S., August 18, 2021 in a courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
  • A lawyer for R. Kelly compared the singer to Martin Luther King Jr. in the defense’s closing argument.
  • The lawyer also compared how Kelly likes being called “daddy” to Mike Pence calling his wife “mother.”
  • Closing arguments are ongoing, and come at the end of Kelly’s monthlong sex crimes trial in Brooklyn.
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One of R. Kelly’s attorneys invoked Martin Luther King Jr. and former Vice President Mike Pence in the defense’s closing argument, pleading that the jury acquit the singer in his sex crimes case.

Devereaux Cannick, the defense attorney who is presenting closing arguments following more than a month of testimony in Brooklyn federal court, spoke to jurors Thursday afternoon about the 1960s Civil Rights movement. He said King “was called a rabble-rouser, a communist,” and was eventually murdered for trying to abide by protections enshrined in the US Constitution.

“‘All I’m trying to do is make it true to what it said on paper,'” Cannick said, paraphrasing King. “That’s all Rob is trying to do.”

Prosecutors accused Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, of sexually abusing more than 20 girls, women, and men, many of them when they were teenagers, and of directing his employees to procure women for sex in what amounted to a criminal enterprise. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Cannick described Kelly’s relationships as consensual, saying he told all of the women that prosecutors brought forth as witnesses that he had multiple girlfriends. He said Kelly “treated them like gold,” buying them “bags that cost more than cars,” and brought them into his lavish lifestyle.

Throughout the trial, accusers said one of Kelly’s many bizarre rules for their relationships was that they needed to call him “daddy.” Cannick treated the accusation with scorn, saying that prosecutors were trying to criminalize a term of endearment. He pointed out that a text message from one accuser showed that she had called a friend “ho.”

“‘Ho’ is good, ‘daddy’ is bad,” Cannick said with sarcasm.

“It’s almost a crime to call a man a daddy,” he added. “I guess people can’t do that anymore.”

Cannick compared “daddy” to how former Vice President Mike Pence would referred to his wife.

“The former Vice President Mike Pence called his wife ‘mother,'” Cannick said.

Kelly leaned forward in his chair and listened with rapt attention as Cannick gave the defense’s closing argument, which is set to continue following an afternoon break.

Cannick said that Kelly’s sexual proclivities, including “taping sex,” didn’t amount to the charges prosecutors brought against him.

“His label marketed him as a sex symbol, a playboy. So he started living that lifestyle,” Cannick said. “It’s a lifestyle, not a crime.”