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Twenty years after she denied to a grand jury that R. Kelly had sex with her as a girl and recorded some of their encounters, the now grown woman took the stand Thursday to reverse her testimony.
Testifying under the pseudonym Jane, the 37-year-old only looked at Kelly once during her testimony when asked to identify him. Kelly kept his gaze lowered to the defense table throughout her time on the stand. Prosecutors showed multiple recordings which Jane testified showed Kelly engaging in sex acts with her. At times, Jane began to cry during her time on the stand.
“How old were you when the sexual acts depicted in those recordings occurred?” asked Assistant US Attorney Jeannice Appenteng.
“14,” Jane testified.
Jane testified Kelly began engaging in sex acts with her when she was 14, and had sexual intercourse with her starting when she was 15 “hundreds” of times before she turned 18.
Jane is one of five minors that prosecutors allege Kelly sexually abused in the late 1990s, and that he made explicit videos with four of them. Kelly faces charges including producing and receiving child pornography, enticing minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and obstruction charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
His co-defendants include Derrel McDavid, a former business manager and accountant for the singer, who faces child pornography and obstruction charges. Milton “June” Brown, Kelly’s former assistant, faces one count of conspiracy to receive child pornography. McDavid and Brown each pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Jennifer Bonjean, an attorney for Kelly, asked jurors during opening statements Wednesday to question why Jane is coming forward now and changing her testimony from two decades before.
“For the last 22 years, she has adamantly denied that it was her in that video. Before there was any criminal investigation, she denied it. She denied it repeatedly to prosecutors, she denied it to social workers to police officers. She denied it under oath to a grand jury,” Bonjean said Wednesday.
On the witness stand Thursday, Jane said she is testifying under immunity because she lied under oath to a 2002 grand jury about her sexual relationship with Kelly and about whether she appears in the explicit video recordings with him.
“If I correct my mistakes by telling the truth I won’t be prosecuted,” Jane testified.
As a young teen, Jane traveled the world with a Christian hip-hop group whose members were cousins of hers. Prosecutors asked her not to name the group in order to protect her identity from her.
“I was living my dream,” Jane testified.
Her aunt, known professionally as Sparkle, worked with R. Kelly and had a romantic relationship with him. It was Sparkle who introduced Jane to Kelly when Jane was 12 or 13 years old at a gospel concert her church de ella was having, she testified. Weeks later, Kelly came to one of her group’s concerts of her.
“He was telling me how great of a job I did,” Jane testified. “I felt successful. I felt happy.”
Shortly after they met, Jane said she began spending more time with Kelly and Sparkle. She would watch Kelly and Sparkle record music and talk about basketball and music with Kelly. Jane testified she was 13 when Sparkle suggested Jane should ask Kelly to play a bigger role in her life than her.
“She told me that I should ask him to be my godfather.” Sparkle is expected to testify later in the trial.
Jane said Kelly “chuckled” and agreed to be her godfather, and within weeks, their relationship became sexual. Kelly would talk to her on the phone and ask “what color panties are you wearing” and “about my breasts growing” and that “I need to be wearing bras,” Jane testified.
When Kelly became her godfather, Jane testified that her parents felt comfortable letting her stay the night or even the weekend at his home, without her parents or aunt present.
“They would pretty much drop me off and then leave,” Jane testified.
Jane testified that she was 14 years old when Kelly’s sexualized comments became actions. She said Kelly began touching her breasts and vaginal area while touching himself one night when they were at his recording studio for her. The touching, she testified, quickly turned into oral sex and other sex acts, and she lost her virginity to him when she was 15.
Jane spoke softly as Appenteng asked her to describe one act shown in a video.
“On what part of your body did he urinate?” Appentence asked.
“My vagina,” Jane said, quietly.
Bonjean, and an attorney for McDavid, have repeatedly objected to prosecutors admitting the recordings as evidence. They contested the authenticity of the videos and the chain of custody that the videos have been transferred through in the 20 years since they surfaced. Retired Chicago Police Detective Daniel Everett, who investigated one of the tapes in 2002, testified Thursday that he did not know where the original VHS tape featuring multiple recordings is.
“I don’t know where it is today,” Everett testified.
Jane testified that after recordings were made, they were sometimes kept in a gym bag, or a wood-paneled room in Kelly’s former home that she called the “log cabin” area. She testified that she sometimes saw Brown carrying the bag filled with recordings.
Prosecutors did not play the recordings in court Thursday, but warned jurors during opening statements that they will play portions of the videos during the trial and that they are “difficult to watch.”
When the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began investigating an allegation that Kelly was having a sexual relationship with Jane in April 2000 when she was 15, Jane testified that she denied the relationship. She also testified that she later denied to Chicago Police investigators that she and Kelly had a sexual relationship.
Jane testified Thursday that she denied having a sexual relationship with Kelly to her parents, but after reports began surfacing in 2002 about the existence of a tape showing the pair engaged in sex acts, she said Kelly, Jane and her parents had a meeting where Kelly admitted to them he was having a sexual relationship with their daughter.
Jane and her father received subpoenas to testify before a grand jury in 2002. Jane testified that prior to appearing before the grand jury, she had a conversation with Kelly about “loyalty” and “denying our relationship and the sex tape.”
Jane testified she lied to a grand jury in 2002 when she denied having a sexual relationship and appearing in sex videos with the singer.
“And why were you untruthful?” Appentence asked.
“Because I was afraid to expose Robert. Because I was afraid of what might happen to my parents. I also did not want that person to be me,” Jane testified.
Jane is expected to retake the stand on Friday.