Summary List Placement
Anthony Navarro, an audio engineer, landed his first job in the music industry in 2007 as an assistant to R. Kelly at his home studio in a Chicago suburb, the 36-year-old testified Friday.
For the 2 1/2 years Navarro worked with Kelly, he was responsible for going on food runs, picking up and dropping off guests, and alerting the singer if women “were not where they were supposed to be,” he said in court.
“It was a weird time for me. The things you had to do was a bit uncomfortable. The music and producing stuff was really good. All the other stuff was kind of strange,” Navarro said from the stand on the third day of testimony in Kelly’s sex crimes trial. “It was almost like the ‘Twilight Zone’. You went into this gate and it was almost like you were in a different world, just a strange place.”
Kelly — whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly — is on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court on allegations he ran a criminal enterprise of employees who helped him recruit and train girls, boys, and young women for sex with him. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Prosecutors allege that the singer’s drivers, entourage, and others who worked for him arranged the travel and accommodations for victims who were abused physically, sexually, and psychologically.
Navarro was a general assistant or “runner” for Kelly. He told the jury Friday that part of his job included picking up Kelly’s “girlfriends” from different locations and bringing them to his mansion in Olympia Fields or elsewhere.
While sitting with the women, either in car rides — which could be hours long — or at Kelly’s home, Navarro said he and the other employees were not allowed to speak to the female guests.
“I was not supposed to be talking to any of the girls or female guests in the house,” he said. “That’s one of Rob’s rules for us.”
He would be responsible for keeping an eye on where the guests were, and if they wanted anything — like food or to leave — Navarro would have to get in touch with Kelly or one of his manager’s to get their permission, he said.
Sometimes they would have to wait for hours, or even days, until they got in touch with Kelly about whether or not they could accommodate his guest’s requests, Navarro said.
On cross-examination, though, Navarro said there were no locks on the exterior of the rooms that the guests were assigned to and it was possible for them to walk out on their own.
When the girlfriends would leave the house, Navarro said he would sometimes be instructed to hand them envelopes of money.
Navarro said the girls he was told to pick up and drop off at different locations didn’t appear to be underage, but one time two “really young” girls jumped the fence at Kelly’s property and he had to call a manager to alert them of the situation.
Navarro identified a photo of one of the girls — whom he said had been to the house before that incident — as Jerhonda Pace. Pace testified earlier this week that Kelly began a sexual relationship with her when she was only 16 years old, during which she alleged he assaulted her and she contracted herpes.
The two girls appeared to be in their mid-teens, Navarro said, who was in his early 20s at the time.
Strict rules for his girls and employees
Prosecutors have alleged that Kelly had a set of rules that his sexual partners were made to follow, including calling him “Daddy,” wearing loose fitting clothes if other men were around, and not being able to move freely in his home without his permission.
Navarro said he noticed Kelly’s girlfriends would wear normal clothing when they went out, but at home they’d mostly wear pajamas. He saw some of them call the singer “Daddy” on occasion.
Employees were also expected to follow “Rob’s rules,” Navarro said, recalling a time when he was “fined” for breaking one of them.
The former employee compared the fines, in which Kelly wouldn’t pay them, to the NBA, where players lose income if they violate a rule.
He doesn’t remember what he did to upset Kelly, but called it “something trivial.”
“It was something stupid that didn’t seem to make any sense,” he said.
After quitting his job, Navarro said he sued Kelly for overtime compensation that he didn’t receive on the job.
Since then, Navarro has had gigs working with Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, and Kanye West and wasn’t expected to perform the kind of personal errands he had to do for Kelly, he testified.
“That was just normal,” he said of the other jobs. “Most of the work is just professional.”