An Alpharetta couple postponed plans for a June wedding so the bride-to-be could testify about her scandalous sex life.
Lisa Van Allen took the stand last week in the Chicago criminal sex trial of her former boyfriend, Grammy-winning singer R. Kelly, and she did so with the blessing of her fiance.
Kelly, 41, has been charged with 14 counts of child pornography for allegedly having sex with an underage girl and videotaping it. Van Allen, 27, testified she participated in one of the encounters and identified the young victim.
Van Allen's fiance, Yul Brown, 38, said Van Allen was seduced by Kelly's glamorous lifestyle, fell wildly in love with the singer and did things she was not proud of.
Brown says Van Allen came forward because it was the right thing to do, and he is defending his fiancee's honor because she can't speak for herself. A gag order prevents Van Allen from talking about the R. Kelly trial outside the courtroom.
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"She wants the people in Atlanta to know the real situation," he said.
Others say Van Allen had different motives.
"Lisa Van Allen is an admitted thief and liar who wouldn't know the truth if she tripped over it," said Derrel McDavid, Kelly's business manager, in a statement he released through the singer's spokesman. "If there was any crime committed here, it was her attempt to extort money from R. Kelly."
Kelly's defense lawyers say the couple tried to obtain $300,000 in exchange for Van Allen's silence. And the defense lawyers have suggested Van Allen's testimony might have kept Brown, a convicted felon, from returning to prison.
Last February, Brown was arrested with marijuana, presciption drugs not in their proper container and a loaded AK-47. Brown faced a total of 21 years, but on April 2 he was sentenced to one year probation in Fulton County court. Brown and his Atlanta lawyer, Jackie Patterson, said no deals were made to serve up Van Allen to Cook County, Ill., prosecutors.
On Tuesday, Assistant Fulton County District Attorney Robert Wolf appeared as a prosecution witness to rebut defense contentions Van Allen came forward so her fiance could escape prison time. Shortly after Brown's arrest, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Van Allen contacted Cook County prosecutors and alleged she had a menage a trois with Kelly and the underage girl who appears on the tape.
Wolf said he recommended prison time for Brown but an Atlanta judge gave probation. "There was absolutely no connection" between Van Allen's cooperation and Brown's sentence, Wolf said, according to the Sun-Times.
The trial is still under way, with closing arguments expected to start Thursday. Kelly, who did not testify, faces 15 years in prison if convicted.
Brown, who casts an intimidating shadow at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, said he served three years in federal prison in Alabama after being caught with bogus documents while running a chop shop for cars. He said he and Van Allen did not let past mistakes keep them from building a future together.
"I have a checkered past of my own," he said. "That is part of the reason why we get along. We were able to open up and share."
As Brown told her story, Van Allen, who is four months pregnant, sat beside him in their stately five-bedroom house, which has private tennis and basketball courts. Wearing a striped cotton maternity sundress with strappy fuschia sandals, she wiped away tears as he stroked her shoulder.
Van Allen grew up in Hartford, Conn., and was a foster child until she was adopted at age 5. She moved to Atlanta on her own at 16, attended Morrow High School and took a job at Southlake Mall selling jeans, Brown said.
In 1997, a girlfriend who wanted to be a singer invited Van Allen, then 17, to go to an R. Kelly video shoot for "Home Alone." Brown said Van Allen told him Kelly flirted with her. She testified in court that Kelly took her to his on-set trailer where they had sex.
Brown said Van Allen told him she fell in love with Kelly and lost control of herself, engaging in random sex with the singer, and sometimes group sex. She said she didn't know Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was married. She was overwhelmed by the rush of the music video roles, the concert tours and the vacation home in Florida.
Brown said Van Allen moved to Chicago to be closer to Kelly and remained his mistress for about five years. She traveled with Kelly and was sometimes plucked from the audience at concerts to feign sexual intercourse on stage with the singer. Brown said Van Allen became pregnant while dating Kelly.
"Any other female would have had his child," Brown said. "She said this wasn't the kind of guy she wanted raising her kids. ... She had an abortion two days before she did the 'I Wish' video. She is the one braiding his hair."
Van Allen moved back to Atlanta in 2001. He said she eventually ended all romantic dealings with Kelly in 2005 because she wanted to have a stable relationship and a family of her own.
A positive ID
Brown insists Van Allen is no opportunist looking for a payday. Van Allen denied trying to extort money from Kelly, but she did testify that she swiped a $20,000 diamond Rolex watch from Kelly when he visited her in Atlanta, and on another occasion she took an old sex tape of herself from Kelly's duffel bag.
She told the court she was paid $20,000 to return the video. It allegedly contained potentially damaging footage of her, Kelly and the underage victim having sex with Kelly between 1998 and 2000. Van Allen told the court she was led to believe the girl was 16 when they met that night. Prosecutors say the girl was about 13, but they cannot pinpoint her age because they're not exactly sure when the video was made.
The defense argues that the people in the sex tape are not Kelly or the 13-year-old. The girl testified it was not her, and the alleged victim's relatives are split over whether the Oak Park teen actually appears in Kelly's sex tapes.
But Van Allen identified Kelly and the girl, one of the prosecution's strongest points.
The Cook County State Attorney's Office would not discuss how Van Allen became a prosecution witness or whether she was offered immunity in exchange for her testimony. Ed Genson, Kelly's lead defense attorney, said he could not comment on the case.
Brown said Van Allen came forward because she didn't want other impressionable young girls falling prey to Kelly. "This is the first time in her life that she has had the support she needed to go forward with the situation," he said.
Brown says he and his fiancee have built a comfortable life together. Brown owns a real estate investment company, Highline Investments.
Brown, who grew up in Ben Hill, said he and Van Allen met in 2006 at a sports bar in Riverdale. He doesn't hold her past love affair with Kelly against her.
"I never felt like I had to forgive her for anything," Brown said. "I have done threesomes in my life. We have all been 17. If I had to forgive her for what she did, she would have to forgive me."
They were engaged six months later and decided to start a family. Both already have daughters. Brown has a 13-year-old, and Van Allen has a 5-year-old.
When the R. Kelly trial started, the couple temporarily postponed the nuptials. They have not set another date.
"Since she started, her testimony has never wavered," Brown said. "She is more concerned with the truth coming out than with people judging her. She did what she was supposed to do. It takes courage. Fortunately, she grew up."
— Staff researcher Sharon Gaus contributed to this story.