Entertainment

2 women dating R. Kelly defend singer, accuse parents of lying

Two women who say they are in a relationship with R. Kelly are defending the R&B singer, who faces allegations of sexually assaulting teenage girls.

Singer-songwriter returned to jail on Wednesday for not paying child support

Joycelyn Savage, left, and Azriel Clary, who say they are in a relationship with R. Kelly, have defended the embattled R&B singer. (Matt Marton/Associated Press)

Two women who say they are in a relationship with R. Kelly are defending the R&B singer, who faces allegations of sexually assaulting teenage girls.

In a tearful interview broadcast on Thursday, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage (aged 21 and 23, respectively) accused their own parents of trying to extort money from the performer.

The parents of the two women say their daughters have been brainwashed by 52-year-old Kelly.

"I'm crying because you guys don't know the truth," Clary said as she sobbed during the interview with CBS.

Clary called her father "very manipulative," and accused her parents of telling "lies for money."

"If you can't see that you're ignorant and you're stupid," she said.

Kelly, who was in the room during the women's interview, pleaded not guilty last month to charges that he sexually assaulted three teenage girls and a fourth woman. He has denied similar abuse allegations for decades. He was tried on child pornography charges in 2008 and found not guilty.

The new charges were brought after a Lifetime television documentary series featured interviews with seven women, including his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly, who accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.

Clary said her parents encouraged her to make "sexual videos" with Kelly when she was 17 so they could blackmail him. She also said her parents had threatened to leak naked photos of her unless Kelly sent them tens of thousands of dollars.

Azriel Clary, left, and Joycelyn Savage, are seen in February leaving the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago following R. Kelly's first court appearance on sexual abuse charges. (Matt Marton/Associated Press)

Both sets of parents have denied ever asking for money or receiving money from Kelly.

"We never 'sold' our daughter to him or anyone else ... All of the victims and parents cannot be lying," Alice and Angelo Clary said in a statement on Wednesday.

A lawyer representing Timothy and Jonjelyn Savage also said the couple has never asked for or received money from Kelly. The couple also said they have not spoken to their daughter for two years. 

"At no point did this family sell their daughter to anyone or provide their daughter for anything for money," attorney Gerald Griggs said Wednesday during a news conference.

R. Kelly was arrested and returned to jail Wednesday. A Cook County Sheriff's Office official says the singer won't be released until he pays $161,000 US in back child support he owes. (Cook County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Kelly was arrested in Chicago on Wednesday for owing more than $161,000 US in child support to his three children with Kelly. He must pay the full amount to get out of jail, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's Office said.

In an interview with Gayle King of CBS This Morning, Kelly said he has been in financial difficulties because "so many people" who had access to his bank account have stolen from him.

"How can I pay child support if my ex-wife is destroying my name and I can't work? How can I get paid?" he said, crying and at times appearing to become hysterical during the interview.

Andrea Kelly's attorney declined to comment on the allegation.

The singer's next child support hearing is set for March 13 and his next court date on the sex abuse charges is scheduled for March 22.

Interviews often 'a bad idea,' say experts

The CBS interview, which was recorded earlier this week, marked the first time Kelly has spoken publicly since his arrest last month in the sexual abuse case. In segments that aired Wednesday, Kelly whispered, cried and ranted while pleading with viewers to believe that he never had sex with anyone under age 17 and never held anyone against their will — likely hoping the raw interview would help sway public opinion.

During the CBS interview conducted by Gayle King, left, Kelly's emotions swung wildly. In a particularly dramatic moment, he angrily stood up and started pacing, his voice breaking as he yelled: 'I didn't do this stuff! This is not me!' (Lazarus Jean-Baptiste/CBS/Associated Press)

Experts said Kelly's appearance was also risky and could backfire if it gives prosecutors more information to use against him at trial. That's why most defence attorneys urge clients to keep quiet.

"In my history as a prosecutor, I loved it when a defendant would say things or make comments about his or her defence," said Illinois Judge Joseph Birkett, who said he did not watch the Kelly interview and was speaking only as a former prosecutor.

"I would document every word they said ... [and] I could give you example after example where their statements backfired."

There have been cases in which people who spoke up pointed to evidence that ultimately helped win their freedom, but "historically it's a bad idea," Birkett said.

In Kelly's case, he and his attorney might have decided they had nothing to lose after the Lifetime series, said Fred Thiagarajah, a prominent Newport Beach, Calif., attorney and former prosecutor.

If you get someone who is ranting and raving, I would never let that kind of person ever do an interview.- Fred  Thiagarajah , former prosecutor

"A lot of the public already thinks he's guilty, and there is a very negative image of him, so the only thing he might think he can do is try to change their minds," Thiagarajah said. If the evidence against him is overwhelming, "this kind of interview might be kind of a Hail Mary" to influence a potential jury pool.

But the dangers of such an interview might outweigh any benefits if Kelly locked himself into a particular defence, Thiagarajah said, adding: "He may not know all the evidence against him."

In the CBS interview, for example, he denied ever having sex with anyone under 17, even though he married the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15. A videotape given to prosecutors in his current case purports to show Kelly having sex with a girl who repeatedly says she's 14.

Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, has said his client did not "knowingly" have sex with underage girls.

Thiagarajah said he might allow a client to do such an interview — but only if he were confident the client could keep his emotions in check and "stick to a script."

"If you get someone who is ranting and raving, I would never let that kind of person ever do an interview," he said.

On Wednesday's broadcast, Kelly's emotions swung wildly as he explained he was simply someone with a "big heart" who was betrayed by liars who hoped to cash in.

In a particularly dramatic moment, he angrily stood up and started pacing, his voice breaking as he yelled, "I didn't do this stuff! This is not me!" He cried as he hit his hands together, saying, "I'm fighting for my f--king life."

He insisted people were trying to ruin his 30-year career, but then said his fight was "not about music."

"I'm trying to have a relationship with my kids and I can't do it" because of the sexual abuse allegations, he shouted. "You all just don't want to believe it."

Rising from poverty on Chicago's South Side, Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, 12 Play, which produced such popular sex-themed songs as Your Body's Callin' and Bump N' Grind. He has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Céline Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. One of his best-known hits is I Believe I Can Fly.

With files from The Associated Press