Chicago. A woman who has been at the center of R. Kelly’s legal troubles for more than two decades testified Thursday that the R&B singer sexually assaulted her “hundreds” of times before she turned 18, starting when she was 15.
Jane, the alias of the 37-year-old woman in Kelly’s child pornography and obstruction of justice trial, told jurors that in the late 1990s, when she was 13, she asked Grammy award-winning singer to be her godfather because she considered him an inspiration and mentor saw.
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She said that within a few weeks, Kelly started calling her and saying sexual things to her. She stated that he first touched her breasts and other parts of her body when she was about 14 years old, in a Chicago recording studio, and that he was at her home on Chicago’s North Side around that time “with the intrusion began”. He told jurors he was 15 when they first had sex. Kelly, 55, would have been in his 30s at the time.
When asked by a prosecutor how she knew what to do sexually, Jane replied, “He told me what to do.” When asked how many times they had sex before they turned 18, he quietly replied: “Countless times… hundreds.”
Kelly, who is serving a 30-year sentence for his conviction earlier this year in New York on federal charges that he used his fame to sexually assault fans, is on trial in his hometown of Chicago on other federal charges. Among the most serious is a conspiracy to obstruct justice by allegedly tampering with a 2008 court case on state charges of child pornography stemming from an alleged video of him and Jane having sex when she was a minor.
Prosecutors say Kelly paid and threatened Jane to ensure she did not testify at the trial. She didn’t, and eventually the singer was acquitted.
Kelly is also accused of producing child pornography and enticing minors to have sex. Unlike the 2008 trial, Jane has worked with prosecutors prior to the current trial and is a critical witness.
During Wednesday’s opening statement, prosecutor Jason Julien tried to prepare the jury for testimonies from accusers, including Jane, and reminded them that even if the accusers spoke, a key issue in the trial would remain the exploitation of often frightened and confused children the jury are now adults.
Speaking softly and hesitantly when she commented on Thursday, Jane described growing up in a musical family in suburban Chicago and being homeschooled because she was in a touring music group, which she joined when she was about was 12 years old.
Jane met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in high school. He had gone to Kelly’s recording studio in Chicago with his aunt, a professional singer who worked with the singer. Shortly after this meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly would be her best man.
As her testimony continued, Jane sounded calmer and more confident, answering questions naturally.
According to prosecutors, Kelly shot the video of Jane in a log cabin-style room at his north Chicago home between 1998 and 2000. In the video, the girl can be heard calling the man “Dad”. Federal prosecutors say she and Kelly have had sex hundreds of times over the years at Kelly’s homes, recording studios and tour buses.
Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a famous singer, songwriter and producer, knew a conviction in 2008 would end his successful life, so prosecutors say he was conspiring to avoid the trial to manipulate.
According to prosecutors, Kelly asked Jane and her parents to leave Chicago and paid for a trip to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. When they returned, prosecutors said Kelly tried to isolate Jane and took her to different hotels. When summoned before a state jury examining the video, Jane and her parents denied that she was the one in the video.
Tears ran down his face on June 13, 2008 when he was acquitted of all child pornography allegations. Some of the jurors told reporters after the trial that they weren’t convinced the woman in the video was who prosecutors said she was.
For years prior to the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a duffel bag full of sex tapes with him everywhere, but according to court documents, some videos later disappeared. In the 2000s, some videos were pirated on the streets of the United States.
In the early 2000s, Jane’s aunt showed her parents a copy of a video she said her daughter was showing having sex with Kelly. According to a government document, when they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You’re either with me or against me.”
The parents took it as a threat.
Kelly, who denies any wrongdoing, has been dogged by complaints and allegations about his sexual behavior for decades. The scrutiny intensified with the advent of the #MeToo era and the six-part 2019 documentary, Surviving R. Kelly.
Kelly also faces four counts of enticing minors into sex, one from each of the other four accusers. They are also expected to make a statement.
Prosecutors told the jury that the evidence included at least three videos showing Kelly having sex with underage girls.
Two of Kelly’s associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is accused of receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, both have denied any wrongdoing.
Michael Tarm is on Twitter as https://twitter.com/mtarm