Survivor Who Defended R. Kelly in 2019 Gayle King Interview Says He Told Her 'Exactly What to Say'

"Before that interview, you know, he had us practicing every single day," Azriel Clary told Gayle King this week after R. Kelly was found guilty of racketeering charges in federal court

Sitting down again with Gayle King, Azriel Clary is explaining what led to her defending R. Kelly in an interview two years ago, and how the singer coached her on exactly what to say at the time.

Back in March 2019, Clary and Joycelyn Savage appeared on CBS This Morning (now CBS Mornings) as Kelly's "girlfriends," firmly denying claims that he had been holding them hostage in his home for years.

The R&B singer and songwriter, on Monday, was found guilty of racketeering charges in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, New York, following decades of sex abuse allegations. The verdict followed a trial that began on Aug. 18 and included 50 witnesses, including Clary.

In an interview that aired on CBS Mornings on Thursday, King, 66, again spoke with Clary, this time discussing how Kelly had coached her — ahead of the 2019 appearance — into saying what he wanted them to say in his defense. She said she "instantly regretted" how she acted in the interview.

"He told us to be angry and be upset and 'she's gonna try to do this,' and so we were, we came in angry," recalled Clary, 23. "I was scared because I was like, 'I don't want the world to see me this way,' you know? I'm loving, I'm caring, I'm compassionate, and no one got to see that side of me."

"Before that interview, he had us practicing every single day, answering questions … and if he didn't like our answers, he would tell us exactly what to say and how to say it," she added, remembering that afterward, Kelly was "so happy" with their performance.

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Clary — who testified that she'd been sexually abused by Kelly since she was 17 ("It was very disturbing to have to relive those moments," she said about testifying) — told King that she had given over control and it was only going to be herself who would convince her to regain autonomy in the toxic situation.

"I feel like that is something that I would've had to had woken up for myself, something that I would've had to realize on myself. And, you know, a lot of people don't realize with victims, the more you try to help them, the more it upsets them sometimes."

She later added that "this person no longer has control over me, you know? You don't tell me what to do and what to wear and where to go and how long to be in a room anymore."

"Even I have to take accountability for my actions. It's okay to reevaluate your life. It is okay to change your mind," Clary said. "You are never too old to wake up and say, 'Hey, I thought this was good for me, but it's actually not.' So I feel like that's why it was important for me to come back here and see you again, because it is okay to change your mind. It is okay to apologize and forgive yourself, more importantly. That's really what I had to do."

Prosecutors said in an indictment that Kelly, now 54, and his team — including managers, bodyguards and assistants — "traveled throughout the United States and abroad to perform at concert venues … and to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with Kelly" as far back as 1999.

R. Kelly
R. Kelly. Antonio Perez/Getty Images

According to the indictment, the singer allegedly required his victims to follow "numerous rules" in which they "were not permitted to leave their room without receiving permission, including to eat or go to the bathroom," were "not permitted to look at other men" and "were required to call Kelly 'Daddy.' "

The indictment also accused Kelly of "engaging in sexual activity with girls under 18 years old," failing to disclose "a sexually transmitted disease Kelly had contracted" and producing child pornography by requesting that underage girls send him photos.

Kelly has maintained his innocence throughout his legal troubles. He has been in custody since 2019.

Gerald Griggs, an attorney for several of the victims, told PEOPLE that his clients are satisfied with the verdict.

"It's been a long journey for many of the accusers and their family members," Griggs said. "My clients have been fighting since 2017, and some others have been fighting for 20 years. Today, the voices of Black women were heard loud and clear. This is a process to achieve justice, and they are eagerly awaiting sentencing — as well as his three other trials. Today, justice was served for Robert Sylvester Kelly."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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