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R. Kelly’s Lawyer Just Used Martin Luther King Jr. to Argue for Innocence

R. Kelly in 2019. Photo: Pool/Antonio Perez - Pool via Getty Images

 Moments after R. Kelly’s legal team started its closing argument, it became clear that the R&B singer’s last chance to proclaim his innocence would be as weird as the first opportunity. Indeed, lead Kelly attorney Deveraux Cannick invoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mike Pence, and Hugh Heffner in arguing that his client is not guilty.

What transpired is this: Cannick started his closing by saying, “This is a great country” and that “our constitution is most sacred.”


This is pretty normal fare for defense lawyers — the Sixth Amendment says that people charged with crimes have a right to a fair trial — but things quickly took a turn. Cannick said that in the 1960s, someone who was derided as “rabble-rouser” and “communist,” along with like-minded allies, decided that the Constitution wasn’t being fair to them.


“So they took to the street. They revolted,” Cannick said. Multiple oh nos could be heard in the room when it became clear where Cannick was going. “And in the process, some were killed. Some were maimed.”


“And Dr. King, as you know, he was murdered.”


Cannick then quoted King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, essentially arguing that the late civil-rights leader and Kelly are both fighting for their constitutional rights.


His label marketed him as a sex symbol, a playboy. So he started living that lifestyle,” Cannick said. “Where’s the crime in that? Hugh Hefner, that was his life. Not a crime. Not a crime.


“And that’s all Robert is trying to do,” he said.


Cannick also described Kelly’s behavior as in keeping with the international superstar he had become after rising up from being a mere street musician.


“His label marketed him as a sex symbol, a playboy. So he started living that lifestyle,” Cannick said. “Where’s the crime in that? Hugh Hefner, that was his life. Not a crime. Not a crime.”


Cannick also described Kelly’s affinity for younger females as normal. “He prefers, in some instances, the May-to-October relationship. Older man, somewhat younger woman. Some people just like it that way,” Cannick said. “Some people also just like kinky sex.”


Cannick also argued against the prosecution’s claim that Kelly’s alleged requirement that his girlfriends call him “daddy” was evidence of manipulation and abuse.


“Daddy. It’s almost a crime to call a man a daddy,” Cannick said. “I guess people can’t do that anymore.”


“The former vice-president Pence called his wife ‘mother,’” he said.