The prosecution’s twelfth witness took the stand on Thursday (Aug. 26) during the racketeering and sex trafficking trial of disgraced singer R. Kelly. The witness, Tom Arnold, was Kelly’s tour and studio manager from 1998 through 2011 and traveled with Kelly all around the world. On the stand, he identified 19 other employees and associates of Kelly, including former accountant and manager Derrel McDavid, who has been named frequently throughout various testimonies and is currently facing charges related to Kelly’s alleged crimes.
Corroborating Kelly’s assistant Anthony Navarro’s testimony, Arnold detailed fines that Kelly would dock from his paycheck for “menial” mistakes “quite a few [times].” The mistakes included not getting Kelly’s lunch, not answering Kelly’s calls due to being asleep, buying a $5-10 sweatband for a “female guest” without Kelly’s permission, accidentally eating Kelly’s donuts, and not getting Kelly to his shoot on time, among other reasons. The fine that became the final straw for Arnold was in connection to what’s usually considered “the happiest place on earth,” Disney World.
Arnold says in October of 2011, after driving Kelly to two Florida afterparties on opposite sides of town, he was tired and asked another employee to take over driving. After falling asleep, Arnold says he was woken up and asked to drive the rest of the way, as another employee had fallen asleep at the wheel. Upon arrival at the hotel, Arnold received a call from his wife, who said his weekly check had arrived. The amount was zero dollars, after tax. His usual weekly check was $1,500. According to Arnold, Kelly docked his paycheck for booking a Disney World tour with a male tour guide, and Kelly wanted a female tour guide. When the singer and his entourage showed up at Disney World and found out their guide wasn’t a woman, Kelly canceled the whole experience.
When prosecutors asked Arnold why he quit, he explained, “My wife wasn’t happy, I wasn’t happy, Rob wasn’t happy.”
During cross-examination carried out by defense attorney Thomas Farinella, Arnold recounted the star-studded guest list who’d arrive to Kelly’s recording studios — Chicago Trax and his Olympia Fields home studio, The Chocolate Factory — including Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Whitney Houston, Twista and Shaquille O’Neal. Farinella highlighted the normality of artists arriving with an entourage, including security guards, as well as guests being escorted throughout the studio, regardless of whether they were “female guests” or celebrities. He went on to ask Arnold questions to show that the “female guests” were required to be escorted around the studio because their movement “could be distracting.”
Arnold confirmed that he thought guests and people around Kelly were “eager” to sue the R&B star, which he understood to be part of the reason for the required confidentiality agreements for all guests in Kelly’s studios.