'Twerking is a vulgar dance': R. Kelly's lawyer keeps asking about his accusers' dancing at the singer's sex crimes trial

·4 min read
r kelly trial
R. Kelly sits beside his lawyer Thomas Farinella during Kelly's sex abuse trial at Brooklyn's Federal District Court in a courtroom sketch in New York, U.S., August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
  • R. Kelly lawyer Devereaux Cannick asked a witness Tuesday if the singer's accusers were twerking.

  • "Twerking is a vulgar dance, right?" he asked, and inquired whether they were "shaking their butts."

  • Cannick grilled an accuser earlier in the trial over whether she twerked.

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A defense attorney for R. Kelly has repeatedly questioned witnesses at the singer's sex crimes trial about women twerking around the singer, asking one witness on the stand Tuesday whether his "girlfriends" were "shaking their butts."

"Twerking is a vulgar dance, right?" attorney Deveraux Cannick asked Suzette Mayweather, one of Kelly's former assistants, adding: "It's when they were shaking their butts, right?"

Cannick's questions came during cross-examination Tuesday for Suzette Mayweather, who worked as an assistant for Kelly - whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly. Mayweather worked for the singer between 2015 and 2017, along with her twin sister. Kelly called both of them "Twin," she said.

Mayweather, testifying under subpoena, described how Kelly controlled his various "girlfriends" while living in Chicago's Trump Tower and traveling around on tour. The women needed to wear baggy clothes, were not permitted to look at, or interact with other men, and could not use the bathroom without his permission, Mayweather said.

"They were not at liberty to move around without asking him first," she said.

Prosecutors have accused Kelly of numerous sex crimes, accusing him of directing employees to procure women for sex, and then sexually abusing them. Several accusers have already testified in the trial, which is expected to last through the end of September and is taking place in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, and have described how Kelly maintained control over the minutiae of their everyday lives. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

Mayweather testified about a birthday party in January 2016, held in Kelly's downtown Chicago music studio. She said all of Kelly's girlfriends attended, as well as people related to Kelly's family friends. Mayweather said Kelly had grown upset at his "girlfriends" because of their behavior at the party.

"He didn't like an incident where they were twerking for cake," Mayweather testified.

deveraux cannick r kelly trial
Defense attorney for R. Kelly, Deveraux Cannick arrives to Brooklyn federal court as R. Kelly's sex abuse trial continues at Brooklyn's Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Cannick seized on the comment during cross-examination Tuesday afternoon, asking whether twerking is a "vulgar dance" and involves "shaking butts" while questioning Mayweather in front of the jury.

The move, with origins in hip hop music, does indeed involve derrier dancing and briefly became a meme of sorts after pop singer Miley Cyrus performed it at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Cannick pressed Mayweather more on the dancing.

"You ever heard of 'dropping'?" he asked, apparently referring to another dance move popular at nightclubs.

But prosecutors objected to the question - Mayweather had not testified about "dropping" - and Cannick withdrew the question after chuckling for several seconds.

This isn't the first time Cannick asked about twerking

Cannick, one of four attorneys representing Kelly in the case, had previously asked questions about twerking to other witnesses. One accuser who testified in the trial last week said she met Kelly when she was 17 years old after one of his concerts.

She said that, during the concert, a member of his entourage invited her close to the stage, and that she danced. Cannick grilled her about the dancing.

"Did you twerk?" Cannick asked. The accuser said she was "moving my body just like everyone else."

"But when you were moving your body just like everybody else, you were twerking, weren't you?" Cannick thundered in response.

In questioning yet another accuser earlier in the trial, who said Kelly had sex with her when she was 16, Cannick asked if she identified as a "groupie."

Later Tuesday as Cannick questioned Mayweather on the stand, he asked Ann Donnelly, the judge presiding over the case, if they could take a break. He appeared disorganized, taking several minutes to go through his notes and figuring out which questions he should continue to ask her.

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