And while Kelly and his legal team might have hoped that the sit down with King would allow Kelly to sway public sentiment in his favor, criminal defense attorneys who viewed the interview predict it had the opposite effect.
Former federal prosecutor Priya Sopori says Kelly made several potentially damaging admissions during the interview that only served to support the case the prosecutors are building against him. His confirmation of having two young girlfriends -- Jocelyn Savage, 23, and Azriel Clary, 21 -- Sopori explains, could be used as character evidence that he is not monogamous and that he maintains relationships with women who are in their early 20s. Kelly also told King that his girlfriends' parents handed their daughters over to him when they were even younger and that he didn’t have sex with the then-17-year-old Clary when he met her though “her parents wanted me to.”
Prosecutors could delve into these statements during depositions and pre-trial motions, and could even seek to introduce them at trial.
According to Sopori, the most damaging aspect of the interview was Kelly’s behavior towards King. “He is going to be on trial for the way he treats girls and women,” Sopori says. "So to see him behaving in a manner so aggressively and emotionally, with a high temper, in such close proximity to a woman asking him questions -- it is going to be hard to separate that behavior from his conduct.”
The former prosecutor added, “It is difficult to watch that interview and to not be concerned for Gayle King’s safety and that would be the opposite of the image he wanted to project. In 20/20 hindsight, the interview was a terrible mistake.”
Criminal attorney Harland Braun, whose clients have included Rihanna, Robert Blake and, more recently, Mexican actress and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán confidant Kate del Castillo, says there appeared to be no strategic reason for Kelly to go on national television.
Braun says pre-trial television interviews can, in certain circumstances, serve as a vehicle to explain to a potential jury pool or even to the prosecution, extenuating factors that they might not have considered. He says he once put a doctor facing murder charges on 60 Minutes because he felt it was necessary pre-trial to explain the medical parameters regarding disconnecting an IV from a comatose patient.
That said, interviews, like putting a client on the stand, are risky: "The unscripted setting leaves little room for mistakes and carries high risks because a prosecutor could seek to introduce any damning statements at trial," Braun explains. "The client must be prepared to answer any question thrown at him."
“[Kelly] certainly wasn’t ready for it if he flipped out that way,” Braun says of the R&B artist's volatile on-camera behavior. “I just couldn’t understand what the purpose of it was. With all these charges against him, who was he trying to reach or convince?"
Attorney Lisa Bloom calls Kelly's interview “a master class in how NOT to respond when you have multiple women accusing you of sexual assault.”
“He had the right to remain silent, but not the ability,” Bloom says. “And his constant interrupting of Gayle King, pointing his finger in her face, looming over her, ranting and yelling -- knowing he was on camera and surrounded by a crew -- terrifies me as to how he treats young, dependent women behind closed doors. ... For the sake of his victims, I'm so glad he did this interview. I encourage him to do many, many more.”