WARNING: This story contains graphic content related to sexual violence and may be disturbing to some readers.
A woman who says she was sexually abused hundreds of times by R. Kelly as a minor testified Friday that she agonized several years ago about whether to cooperate with federal investigators who were looking into child abuse allegations involving the singer, but she ultimately did because she didn’t want to “carry his lies.”
Hours before jurors got their first glimpse of sexually explicit videos at the heart of the prosecution’s bid to prove Kelly produced child pornography and successfully rigged his 2008 child porn trial, the woman, who is now 37 and going by the pseudonym “Jane” during the current trial, conceded that even after she began cooperating, she lied when she told agents she wasn’t sure if Kelly had abused minors other than her. She said she lied because she didn’t want to get others in trouble.
Jane testified for over four hours Thursday, saying it was she and Kelly in a videotape that was the focus of the 2008 trial, at which he was acquitted. She also said Kelly sexually abused her hundreds of times from the late 1990s before she turned 18. Kelly, 55, was around 30 years old at the time.
While cross-examining her Friday, Kelly’s lead attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, sought to cast the R&B singer in a more favourable light after Jane testified the day before about how Kelly pursued her sexually starting when she was around 14 years old.
Kelly has been trailed for decades by allegations about his sexual behaviour. The scrutiny intensified during the #MeToo era and following the 2019 release of the Lifetime television docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Under questioning, Jane said her relationship with Kelly lasted 12 years and continued for two years after his 2008 trial, until she was 26. Bonjean asked if, “after you broke up, you cared about him and he cared about you?” Jane said that was true.
As “Surviving R. Kelly” was coming out, Jane said she was concerned for Kelly and reached out to him. In one text to him, she wrote, “I love you. Don’t let the devil win.”
She said she repeatedly tried to contact him in 2019 for advice as she pondered whether to speak to authorities at length about Kelly for the first time. She told jurors: “I felt comfortable enough to reach out to him because I was afraid.”
She decided shortly thereafter to speak to investigators.
“I no longer wanted to carry his lies,” she said.
Kelly, who denies any wrongdoing, was given a 30-year prison sentence by a federal judge in New York earlier this year for a 2021 conviction for using his fame to sexually abuse fans. For the duration of the current trial, he is being held in a federal jail in Chicago, his hometown.
Prosecutors say Kelly intimidated and paid off the girl — Jane — to ensure she didn’t testify at the 2008 trial to identify herself and Kelly in the critical video, which the government says Kelly made in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home around 2000. Jane testified Thursday that she was the girl, then 14, in the video and that Kelly was the man in it.
It was one of three videos that prosecutors played excerpts of on Friday that they said showed Kelly sexually abusing an underage Jane. Before the videos were played on monitors in front of each juror’s chair, court officials set up high opaque screens around the jury that blocked journalists and spectators from seeing the videos and jurors’ reactions to them.
The sound was audible throughout the courtroom, though, and in one video the girl is heard repeatedly calling the man “daddy.” At one point she asks, “Daddy, do you still love me?” The man is also heard giving her sexually explicit instructions.
Earlier, prosecutors suggested that any viewing of the videos by the public could run afoul of child pornography laws, and they asked Judge Harry Leinenweber to send reporters and spectators out of the courtroom while jurors watched them. The judge rejected the request.
After the acquittal in the 2008 trial, some jurors said afterward that they had no choice but to acquit Kelly because the girl — by then an adult — didn’t testify. On the stand Thursday, Jane conceded that she lied to a grand jury in 2002 when she said it wasn’t her in the video.
Jane has testified that she met Kelly through an aunt who worked with him, and that she asked Kelly to be her godfather when she was 13. She told jurors she was 15 when they first had intercourse.
Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, knew a conviction in 2008 would effectively end his life as he knew it, and so prosecutors say he conspired to fix that trial.
Michael Tarm/The Associated Press