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A former assistant of pop star R. Kelly is speaking out to say that she never observed anything inappropriate in her years of working for the singer.
Diana Copeland, who was Kelly’s assistant on and off for 16 years, testified at the star’s sex trafficking trial on Friday. She also made an appearance on “Good Morning America” to reiterate that she never witnessed women being held against their will.
“When this case came up, I was reading women were locked up and kidnapped,” she said. “That’s not what I’m seeing. I’m not seeing anyone trying to leave. Every woman that left walked right out the door.”
Copeland did clarify that she ”did come and go” and that her “experience does not negate anybody else’s experience.” Copeland ran Kelly’s estate, organized his housekeepers and nannies’ schedules, and managed household work, she said; Copeland added that she worked in several of his homes over the years.
In court last week, Copeland testified that Kelly once asked her why she didn’t stop one of his girlfriends when the alleged victim packed her bags and left his home, the New York Times reported. Copeland used the word “escape,” which prosecutors focused on. She also testified that Kelly’s girlfriends would reject Uber rides they called if a male driver showed up and that they’d ask for a female driver instead. She told “Good Morning America” that on shopping trips with some of the women, she noticed they would not talk to male employees; she also noted that she didn’t know if Kelly told them to not talk to men or not.
Yet Copeland adamantly denied witnessing any of the horrors that accusers testified in court. Many claimed they were sexually assaulted and being prevented from leaving their rooms. A former radio intern, for instance, testified earlier this month that she was kept in a windowless room in one of his homes and starved before being possibly drugged then sexually assaulted.
Prosecutors allege that the 54-year-old pop star abused many young women and men, some of them underage, over a nearly two decades period, promising them fame and fortune as he was sexually abusing them. Prosecutors allege the singer led an enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for his sexual desires. Since August, a stream of accusers — both young women and men — have testified about the alleged abuse.
“He would have live-in girlfriends, they would have their own rooms,” Copeland said in the interview. She conceded that he had strict and sometimes strange rules but claimed it wasn’t limited to his girlfriends. “He pretty much didn’t want the girls to move around, he didn’t want anybody to roam his house like a museum.”
Copeland also denied ever recruiting women for the disgraced singer.
“He never asked me, but at the time […] he was R. Kelly, a mega superstar,” she said. “He needed no help to recruit women, or to get women.”
Furthermore, Copeland said she never noticed anyone there that was underage. A good portion of the trial thus far has focused on the late singer Aaliyah, whom prosecutors say Kelly began abusing when she was a young teen when he began sexually abusing her. She is identified as "Jane Doe #1" in the federal trial. Kelly’s former tour manager Demetrius Smith testified in August that he paid a $500 bribe to a Chicago public assistance worker for a fake ID for Aaliyah so she and Kelly could wed. The ID stated that Aaliyah was 18 when she was in fact 15 years old.
“If these things happened, which I found out after I left — I think they’re absolutely terrible. So it’s not something I would ever condone," Copeland added. "Ever.”
Another former assistant of the singer, Cheryl Mack, testified in court last week that he once threatened her over a teenage singer’s lawsuit. This allegedly occurred when the teen was Mack's client. Mack was still a talent manager before Kelly took her on as an assistant.
“He said, ‘Generally in these situations, people come up missing,” she told the court, according to Buzzfeed News. Mack said she took that as a threat.
Prosecutors in New York are expected to rest their case on Friday and the defense is expected to begin its case next week. The sex trafficking trial has been underway since Aug. 18.
Kelly has denied all allegations against him and his defense has described most of his accusers as groupies who only started accusing the singer of abuse following the #MeToo movement.
However, the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer was plagued with accusations about his sexual behavior long before that movement even began. Kelly was accused in Chicago in 2002 on 21 counts of child sexual assault imagery; he was ultimately acquitted in that case in 2008.
In addition to the charges he is facing in New York, Kelly is also accused of producing child sexual assault imagery and destroying evidence in a separate case in Illinois.
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