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R Kelly: Working for singer was like being in ‘twilight zone’ where he called all the shots, ex-employee tells trial

Written by on 21 August 2021

Girls stayed at R Kelly’s mansion for long periods of time but could not eat or leave without his permission, one of his former employees has told his trial.

Anthony Navarro claimed working at the property was “kind of strange” and almost like being in a “twilight zone”, adding it sometimes made him “uncomfortable”.

Mr Navarro, a witness for the prosecution, described the inner workings of the Chicago home where R Kelly had a recording studio and a constant stream of female visitors.

The 36-year-old, who said he worked for Kelly for more than two years until 2009, claimed his job included picking up and driving girls to be with the R&B singer, as well as other tasks associated with his career.

Court sketch of witness Anthony Navarro testifying at R Kelly's trial Image: Court sketch of witness Anthony Navarro testifying at R Kelly’s trial

He alleged the I Believe I Can Fly musician, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, called all the shots, including whether visitors could depart or order takeout food.

The prosecution claims Kelly controlled everything around him and created an environment where girls and women faced strict rules that gave them little choice but to submit to the singer’s alleged sexual advances.

Kelly, 54, has pleaded not guilty at a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to charges of racketeering, sex abuse and bribery, and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Navarro, who was trained as an audio engineer and still works in music, told jurors he never witnessed Kelly allegedly sexually abusing victims.

But he said: “There’s been times where they (girls) wanted to (leave) but couldn’t because they couldn’t get a ride or we couldn’t get a hold of Rob.”

Navarro, 36, recalled being instructed not to talk to girls who came to Kelly’s home and having to tell people when girls were no longer in rooms they had been escorted to.

“The things you had to do were just a bit uncomfortable,” he said.

“The music and production stuff was really good. All the other stuff was kind of strange…. It was almost like the twilight zone.

“It’s just a strange place.”

R Kelly. Pic: AP Image: R Kelly’s hits include the 1996 song I Believe I Can Fly. Pic: AP

Kelly is accused of having sex with and abusing women and girls during a two-decade racketeering scheme.

Prosecutors have argued Kelly demanded absolute control over his victims and was helped in the scheme by an entourage of managers, bodyguards and others.

Defence lawyers claim Kelly’s accusers were lying in order to profit or because they were unhappy their relationships didn’t work out.

Kelly could face life in prison if convicted in Brooklyn, and faces sex-related criminal charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

The trial continues.