EXCLUSIVE: VH1 “Love & Hip Hop” star Mendeecees Harris testified today that he hardly knew the woman who said he coerced her into oral sex in his Lodi home when she was 15.
“No. No way. No, no,” he said as his attorney, Brian Neary, asked Harris whether he was guilty of any of the charges against him.
“I never had a relationship with her, she never extended herself,” said Harris, taking the stand in his own defense. “She didn’t play basketball, she didn’t play Playstation, didn’t want to go to the movies.
“She always walked around the house like she had an attitude,” he said.
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EXCLUSIVE: Closing arguments in the teen sex trial of VH1 “Love & Hip Hop” star Mendeecees Harris on Thursday centered on the credibility of the woman who said he coerced her into oral sex when she was 15. READ MORE….
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With no direct evidence on behalf of either party, defense attorney Brian Neary and Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice both presented jurors with the reasons that their client must be telling the truth.
“That’s the truth – never, never – I never committed none of them acts to that girl in my life.”
Harris also went through great pains during two hours of morning testimony to dispel any impression of himself as being casual about sex.
Questioned first by Neary and then by Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice, Harris outlined relationships with three different women:
Smith was among those who listened intently as Harris testified in the Hackensack courtroom.
Throughout the trial, an entourage has escorted her everywhere, with some holding coats over her face to block photographers. On Monday, the eve of the trial, she posted a strip tease public performance dedicated to Harris:
Wearing a blue suit, pink dress shirt and multi-striped tie, Harris remained calm and composed as he contradicted each and every allegation made by the woman during her testimony – while offering information that at times was peripheral to the case.
He insisted that he was living in Lodi with the victim, her mother and their three boys in order to protect his $50,000 down payment on the house after discovering his name wasn’t on the deed.
“I told her we need to either sell the house or you need to give me my down payment out,” Harris said. “My stuff was in boxes in the hallway for months.”
At that point, he insisted, he and the woman were just friends – including when she leased an apartment on Prospect Street in Hackensack and gave him a key in order to help him out.
“She offered that service,” Harris said, “because I had to get out of the relationship with Mendeecees’ mom…. She put the apartment in her name and she didn’t have a key, didn’t live there.”
“She put her credit on the line?” Maurice asked him.
“Yes, yes, she did that – absolutely,” he said. “Anything to impress me, she would do. She bought me a mink coat as a friend.”
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They moved in together in Lodi “because I had credit problems,” Harris testified.
“She told me if my name was on the loan it would cost more,” he said. So they decided that he’d pay the down payment, she’d get the loan and the deed would be in his name. He said he also paid the grocery, cable and other bills.
Then, his voice choked with emotion, Harris said he went to the Bergen County Clerk’s Office and discovered his name wasn’t on the deed. This, he said, forced him to remain in the house.
After living together in Lodi for three years, they were joined by the teenager, he said.
Contradicting her testimony, Harris said he was rarely around the girl – although he admitted exchanging texts, mostly about “when her mother and I were going to be home.”
After reminding the jurors that Harris was testifying voluntarily, Neary asked his client why he took the stand today.
“It was very hurtful to me to hear that, and I felt if I didn’t testify my side of the story would never be heard,” Harris insisted.
NOTE: Maurice rested the state’s case around 2:45 p.m. Summations were to begin after 3. CHECK BACK FOR MORE TONIGHT
The woman, now 19, testified this week that Harris told her she was “better than [her] mother” after coercing her into oral sex by revealing his knowledge of a dark secret from her past. “He told me he knew I had been raped when I was 8 years old,” she said, “and he found out from my mother.
“ ‘Your mom doesn’t want you here’,” the woman said Harris told her before exposing himself.
She said she complied with his desire out of spite “to get back at my mom.”
“I felt betrayed by her,” she testified on Tuesday. “I didn’t tell her about it until I was 14, and it was something I didn’t want anyone to know.”
That began a series of oral sexual favors in exchange for money, she said.
Harris is charged with seven counts of child abuse and with promoting prostitution. If convicted, he would face up to 20 years in prison.
He has been shuttled in handcuffs for the trial between the Bergen County courthouse and the county jail, where he’s been held since his arrest last week on federal drug charges.
Harris had been free on bail pending the start of the trial, but he surrendered in Bergen County last week after being named in a federal indictment out of Rochester, N.Y. that accuses him and two other men with trafficking $2.5 million worth of heroin and cocaine.
The government is expected to bring that case against him once the teen sex trial is over.
Harris, who’s been characterized in unconfirmed media accounts as a former police informant, already has a drug conviction on his record that led to federal prison time and probation following a 2001 arrest.
Maurice, the prosecutor in the case, accused Harris of manipulating the alleged victim using money and mind games.
“We call it taking candy from a baby,” she said during opening arguments Tuesday.
Harris and his girlfriend were living in Lodi with her two pre-teen boys and a baby son of his from another woman when the woman moved up from North Carolina in the summer of 2009.
Some of the incidents occurred while she was still 15, the teen said, and others after her 16th birthday, when Harris was more than four years older – the standard in New Jersey for statutory rape.
The relationship ended when her mother took her cellphone to punish her for missing curfew and found a message on it from Harris, the woman testified yesterday.
After her mother threw her out, she said, Harris found her and asked: “Please don’t tell her anything about us.”
“He [also] told me they were done,” she said.
The woman also testified that she had no idea what Harris did for a living — and was shocked to discover not only that he was on “Love & Hip Hop” but that he was seeing co-star Smith while still living with his previous girlfriend in Lodi.
Questioned by his attorney today about “Love & Hip Hop,” Harris said: “That’s a show on VH1. It’s reality TV, not being a character, just yourself.”
During cross-examination yesterday, Neary pressed the woman about her statements to detectives, her grand jury testimony and the times she claimed that Harris coerced her into sex – pointing out inconsistencies in where and when she said the incidents allegedly occurred.
The defense attorney also challenged her decision not to return South to her father’s home, as well as her failure to disclose what she said happened to “your counselor, your minister grandmother.”
“I didn’t want anyone to know,” she replied. “I didn’t want it out in the open, like now.”
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia (PROPERTY OF CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM / NO RE-USE WITHOUT PERMISSION)
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