NEW YORK — R. Kelly’s former tour manager is expected to take the stand Thursday against the disgraced R&B superstar — but doesn’t think the singer deserves prison time.
Demetrius Smith argued to the New York Daily News in an interview outside Brooklyn Federal Court that Kelly is the product of the environment in which he was raised and was surrounded by enablers — including himself.
“To me, he isn’t criminal. It was more than that. It’s like a dog — if you train it to be a monster, it ain’t all his fault. And that’s what they did. (His managers) didn’t stop Robert in any kind of way. Robert was a kid coming into the music business and as a kid he didn’t have anything. His power was his music,” Smith said.
In his testimony, Smith is expected to discuss his role as part of the entourage that facilitated Kelly’s criminal behavior.
During opening statements at Kelly’s sex trafficking trial Wednesday, prosecutors said Smith will speak to the $500 bribe he paid to a Chicago public assistance worker in order to make a fake ID for Aaliyah that claimed the young singer was 18 when she was really 15, so that she could legally marry Kelly.
Kelly wanted to marry Aaliyah after she revealed to him that she was pregnant, said prosecutors.
But Smith denied he ever saw Kelly and Aaliyah get intimate.
“Him and Aliyah played. I didn’t see Robert holding her hand and kissing her. That didn’t happen in front of us,” Smith said.
Smith says that before the marriage, Kelly fooled him into thinking his relationship with Aaliyah — who died in a plane crash in 2001 — was innocent.
“He (Kelly) would say, ‘That was like my sister. She just makes me feel so happy,’ and I believed that and respected that,” Smith told the Daily News.
The former tour manager said that after procuring Aaliyah’s fake ID for the wedding in 1996, he stopped working for Kelly.
But despite Kelly’s marriage to an underage girl and the allegations of sexual abuse against his former boss, Smith sees him as a kid in a man’s body who shouldn’t go to prison.
“He deserves a second chance,” Smith said.