The lawyer’s bizarre remarks were a part of his closing arguments to prove the singer’s innocence against multiple charges, including accusations of sex trafficking, according to US media reports.
Cannick also accused the plaintiffs of lying and portrayed them as past lovers hoping to cash in on Kelly’s fame.
So far, nine women and two men have appeared in court to testify against the Chicago-born rapper, claiming that he sexually abused them.
In addition to the abuse allegations, Kelly has also been accused of exploitation, bribery, racketeering and coercion. The rapper has vehemently denied all the charges against him.
“They’re monetising. They know what the game is. They’re surviving off of R Kelly,” the lawyer claimed after which he cited the late civil rights leader as he solicited jurors to exonerate the singer.
“I told you about Dr King and the people of courage for a reason,” Cannick said. “Getting a conviction of R Kelly is a big deal, but a bigger deal is fairness.”
Cannick also quoted King’s famous 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
He claimed Kelly treated all the accusers like “gold” and “bought them bags more expensive than cars”.
The defence lawyer said that the musician was living a “playboy life” because his record label painted him as a sex symbol.
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The lawyer then went on to compare Kelly to Hefner.
“His label marketed him as a sex symbol, a playboy. So he started living that lifestyle. Where’s the crime in that?” the lawyer was quoted as saying by Vulture. “Hugh Hefner, that was his life. Not a crime. Not a crime,” Cannick added.
Cannick also refuted accusations of reportedly bizarre rules Kelly kept in his relationships, including insisting that his victims call him “daddy”. Cannick said, seemingly sarcastically, that it was “almost a crime to call a man a daddy”.
“I guess people can’t do that anymore,” he said, after which he compared the term to how he claimed former vice president Mike Pence referred to his wife.
“The former Vice President Mike Pence called his wife ‘mother,’” said Cannick.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, have accused Kelly of being a predator who used his influence to attract men and women into his circle and allegedly made demands of them to either obey him or be punished.
“For decades, the defendant recruited and groomed women, girls, and boys for his own sexual gratification,” said prosecution lawyer Elizabeth Geddes. “With the help of his inner circle, he slowly isolated his victims, set rules and exacted punishment.”
“It is time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted on each of his victims. It is now time for the defendant to pay for his crimes. Convict him,” said Geddes.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Kelly denied testifying in his own defense.
Following the closing statements, jury deliberation may begin on Friday (24 September). If convicted, Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison.
You can read The Independent’s timeline of abuse allegations against the singer here.