R. Kelly Crisis Manager Steps Down: 'I Would Not Leave My Daughter With Anyone Accused Of Pedophilia'

R. Kelly
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 R. Kelly leaves the Leighton Criminal Courts Building following a hearing on June 26, 2019 in Chicago.

R. Kelly's crisis manager, Darrell Johnson, revealed to CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King on Monday morning (July 22) that he is stepping down from representing the embattled singer, who is slated to appear in federal court in Brooklyn next month to face 18 sex crime charges from federal prosecutors in Illinois and New York, including counts of child pornography.

King noted that Johnson has a 20 year-old daughter, asking, "would you allow her to be alone with..." to which Johnson interrupted, "absolutely not."

"R. Kelly?" King added.

"I would not leave my daughter with anyone who's accused of pedophilia," Johnson clarified. When King pressed further on whether Johnson wouldn't leave his daughter alone specifically with Kelly, 52, Johnson repeated his earlier statement: "I would not leave my daughter with anyone that's accused of being a pedophile. I would not." Johnson joined Kelly's team seven months ago and said he saw two of the women accused of being the singer's "sex slaves," Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, "doing what they want to do," and that he didn't see anything that would cause him to be suspicious.

Editor's note: According to an update of an interview with Johnson posted on on Tuesday morning (July 23), the former Kelly staffer said he misspoke in the CBS interview about potentially leaving his daughter alone with someone accused of pedophilia. "I should have worded it better," Johnson reportedly told the paper, saying that he meant to respond, "I would leave my daughter with Kelly because I do not believe he is a pedophile." Johnson also reportedly clarified in a statement that his leave-taking from Kelly's team "has nothing to do with Mr. Kelly it's for my (own) person(al) reasons." Spokespeople for CBS and Kelly had not returned requests for comment at press time on the apparent disconnect between Johnson's first statement to the network and his contradictory one to USA Today.

Kelly, who Johnson said is "a mess right now... he's scared, he's isolated," has repeatedly denied the allegations that he has exploited women and girls, including underage girls, for several decades. As to the reports that Kelly is broke and unable to pay his bills, Johnson said that the singer does have some royalties coming in and has gotten some donations from friends and fans. A spokesperson for Kelly and the singer's attorney could not be reached for comment at press time.

Kelly was arrested last week while walking his dog and is facing up to 195 years in prison on the Chicago charges alone. After decades of allegations that he has exploited young women and girls, Kelly's life was sent into a tailspin last year with the airing of the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, which included several women making similar claims about alleged sexual, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the Chicago musician.

"They've indicted Mr. Kelly. He's in jail right now. He will have his day in court," Johnson said when asked to explain how all the women who are accusing Kelly have such similar stories and what he would say to them. "And they'll have to bring the evidence. And that's what has to be done. If the evidence stick, Mr. Kelly will spend the rest of his life in the penitentiary."

Johnson also said that he can only "assume" that Kelly is on suicide watch at this point. "Nobody wants to be locked down 24 hours, no TV. He can't read and write, so he can't read a book," Johnson said. "It's almost as if he's already been — a jury has convicted him." Kelly -- who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 when prosecutors could not prove that he was the man depicted in an explicit sex video with an underage girl -- was denied bail during a July 16 court appearance in which he pleaded not guilty to a 13-count indictment. 

The disgraced singer and songwriter has been held in Metropolitan Correction Center in Chicago since his arrest two weeks ago on accusations out of New York of illegal sex with girls and women, who he allegedly paid or threatened to keep quiet. Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti said last week that Kelly paid $2 million to keep the alleged victim in the 2008 case off the witness stand. The singer was arrested on July 11 by NYPD detectives and Homeland Security Investigators on separate allegations of child porn, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice, officials said.

An indictment unsealed the next day in the Eastern District of New York includes charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child, and accuses Kelly and his managers, bodyguards and other assistants of targeting women and girls at concerts and other venues to allegedly be abused. They also allegedly set rules the women and girls had to follow, including not leaving their rooms — even to eat or go to the bathroom — without Kelly’s permission, calling the singer “Daddy,” and not looking at other men, the indictment alleges.

The indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred over two decades dating back to 1999, both in the U.S. and overseas. It accuses Kelly of engaging in sexual acts with girls under 18 and without disclosing that he had a sexually transmitted disease. It also accuses him of producing child pornography, including by asking minors to send him photographs.

The arrest was the second time this year that Kelly has been taken into custody in Chicago on sex charges. The Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois of sexually abusing three girls and a woman. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail. Then on May 30, Cook County prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

Watch Johnson's interview below.


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