Two experts recently told Insider that Kelly's alleged behavior fits that of a cult leader. According to Rick Ross, executive director of the Cult Education Institute, "The women that are under his control, or have been under his control, they're not functioning independently. He's engendered dependency upon himself to make value judgments, to critically think, to analyze things—it's incapacitated these women from being able to think for themselves."
In contrast, the defense team has alternately sought to characterize the women as "groupies," or argued that Kelly treated them lavishly, providing them with gifts, trips and spending sprees, while always opening doors for them and standing if they entered a room.
"Was it MSG?"
Defense lawyer Devereaux Cannick has repeatedly asked women on the stand if they twerked at Kelly's shows or in his presence, as if dancing suggestively meant that they deserved alleged abuse. Cannick also tried to discredit the allegations of one woman, "Sonja," who believes that she was drugged and sexually assaulted at Kelly's home after going there to interview him for a Utah radio station. In her testimony, she said that she'd eaten a few bites of Chinese food shortly before she fell asleep. "Was it MSG?" Cannick asked her during cross-examination, implying that she'd gotten sick because she'd ingested monosodium glutamate, a common amino acid present in everything from tomatoes to Cool Ranch Doritos. (Activists say that anti-MSG sentiments are more about racism than about science.)
Kelly has a team of four lawyers, two of whom have never argued a federal trial before—and it often shows. Just during the defense's opening statement, for example, Judge Donnelly interrupted defense lawyer Nicole Blank Becker to ask for a sidebar, or sustained objections against her, more than half a dozen times. My media colleagues who are full-time court reporters, who also are covering the Kelly trial, tell me this is very unusual, especially in such a high-profile case.
On the other hand, the defense has pointed out inconsistencies between what one witness said on the stand during the trial and statements she had made earlier. Another woman brought forward by the prosecution as a former girlfriend of Kelly's clearly did not want to testify; what she said on the stand didn't fit certain patterns laid out by other female witnesses, which served the defense's argument well.
"It's a bit misleading to call him a co-lyricist"
Meanwhile, outside of court, R. Kelly received a songwriting credit on Drake's new album, Certified Lover Boy, which dropped earlier this month. The project has earned Drake a historic place on the Billboard charts, with nine out of the top 10 songs on the Hot 100. Drake's "TSU"—currently charting at No. 9—incorporates material from a song released by R. Kelly in 1998 called "Half on a Baby." The Drake song includes a sample from a track on which Houston DJ OG Ron C raps over an orchestral passage from the Kelly song.