For the first time after two decades of swirling accusations, R. Kelly’s former goddaughter has taken the stand as a witness to the prosecution in a case against the disgraced singer.
Dressed in a white blazer with her hair in long braids, the woman, now 37 and testifying at Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago under the pseudonym “Jane,” told the jury that she first had sexual contact with Kelly at age 14. .
Their sexual acts escalated to intercourse when she was 15, she said. When asked by a prosecutor how she knew her exact age, Jane calmly replied, “Because that’s when I lost my virginity.”
After that, they had sex “countless times,” sometimes with other teenage girls Jane recruited at Kelly’s request, she said. The meetings took place at Kelly’s home on West George Street, at his Near West Side recording studio, on tour buses and in hotels in Chicago and elsewhere, she said.
Two of the other minor victims are also expected to testify against Kelly later in the trial.
To illustrate how young she looked at the time of the encounters, prosecutors had Jane identify two photos of herself from her childhood. The first, taken when she was a sophomore in high school, showed her smiling on one knee with a basketball. The other was a headshot from when she was in a music group at age 13 — around the time she said she first met Kelly.
“Jane” is expected to testify later Thursday that she was, in fact, the girl depicted in infamous video footage of being sexually assaulted by Kelly.
Jane and her parents had denied for years that Kelly had ever had an inappropriate relationship with her. Jane was not called to testify at Kelly’s 2008 Cook County trial for child pornography, although prosecutors claimed she was the girl on the tape.
Federal prosecutors allege Kelly and his associates paid off Jane and her family and hid other videotapes to manipulate his Cook County trial. He was acquitted of those charges in 2008.
Testifying in a soft voice, Jane said she was over the moon when she first met Kelly in the 1990s, especially after he attended a performance by her music group and gave her great feedback.
“It made me happy that such a successful person said I was gifted, so I was excited,” she said.
She started visiting Kelly’s studio regularly when she was 12 or 13, along with her aunt Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, a protege of Kelly.
Edwards advised her to ask Kelly to be her godfather, she testified.
“(She said) I should sit on his lap and rub his head and ask him to play that part in my life,” Jane testified. She did, and Kelly “grinned a little and said yes.”
After that, their relationship took a sexual turn, Jane said. She would have long phone conversations with him that eventually became explicit, she said. She was 13 years old.
Kelly also first gave her alcohol when she was 14, and she started drinking heavily.
“It would help me loosen up, take me away from the moment a little bit,” she testified.
Jane has so far remained calm on the witness stand, her gaze fixed on the accuser who questions her and pauses every now and then to wipe her braids off her shoulder or wipe her eyelashes.
Kelly has shown little outward reaction to her testimony. When it was time for the witness to identify Kelly in court, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber instructed everyone in the room to take off their masks, after which Jane said she saw the singer sitting at the defense table in a blue suit jacket.
After Assistant US Attorney Jeannice Appenng asked Jane about another item of clothing Kelly was wearing, Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said loudly into her microphone, “That’s how it was. It’s Mr. Kelly!”
Prosecutors previously called a man to the stand who bought a large Lakeview home in 2001: a converted church with a swimming pool and basketball court and a barbershop. The previous owner, he found out, was R. Kelly.
Kelly is said to have filmed at least one of the videos at issue in his federal indictment in that house, and in 2002, police technicians came to take photos, including photos of the wood-paneled room depicted on the tape. .
After Matthew Hulsizer moved in, he discovered that a smoke detector in at least one of the bedrooms was, in fact, not a smoke detector at all – it contained a small hidden video camera. And to leave the bedroom, you had to press a button, he said, a feature he removed because he thought it was a security risk.
A basketball court in the George Street home paid tribute to Kelly’s success with a large cartoon mural on a wall featuring the Looney Tunes characters from the movie “Space Jam,” which, of course, featured Kelly’s Grammy-winning song.
The cartoon featured an image of Kelly on the pitch in a red uniform and sunglasses, according to photos presented by the government, playing with the Tasmanian Devil. The cartoon scoreboard showed that he won two points with one second left on the clock. Some in the crowd of cartoon characters, including Tweety Bird and Marvin the Martian, held up signs.
The “Colorado Room” looked like a log cabin interior with faux wood walls and an accent wall that looked like fake stone. A large whirlpool bath dominated the room, also nestled in faux wood paneling.
The photos of the master bedroom presented by prosecutors included close-ups of the “escape” button and the smoke detector on the ceiling where the new owner said he had found a small hidden video camera.
Kelly was dressed in a dark blue suit. Before the court began, a marshal came to the table to demand a tie for him, and told his lawyers, “he wants the brown one today.”
The testimony was resumed Thursday with a cross-examination of a retired Chicago police detective who was investigating the first allegations that Kelly sexually abused his goddaughter.
In the stands Thursday, Daniel Everett reiterated that when he spoke to “Jane” and her parents in 2000, they denied that the girl had any kind of inappropriate relationship with Kelly.
A little over a year later, he got a tape from then-Chicago Sun-Times journalist Jim DeRogatis and recognized “Jane” in the footage. That video became the focus of Kelly’s Cook County lawsuit 20 years ago.
Defense attorneys have hit hard on the tape custody issue. Everett noted that he recently saw a copy of the footage and the content is the same, but he doesn’t know where the original VHS tape is.
During a cross-examination of Bonjean, Everett noted that he had also interviewed a friend of Jane’s in 2002. That person is expected to testify under the pseudonym “Pinky” later in the trial.
There is no indication in Everett’s reports that underage Pinky told him she had sexual contact with Kelly, Everett testified. And while there were concerns that a videotape portrayed Pinky being abused, when Everett showed her and her mother pictures of the tape, they denied any involvement, he testified.
The prosecution’s very first witness was a psychologist whose testimony was intended to provide context or explanation for some of the witnesses’ behavior, including that victims often keep their abuse secret for years.
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The tape allegedly filmed in that Lakeview home is one of four central to the child pornography charges against Kelly, who is also accused along with former associates Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown of conspiracy to commit suicide. manipulate his 2008 trial.
In opening statements, prosecutors portrayed Kelly as a serial predator, who had sexual contact with underage girls hundreds of times over the years. Five women, including “Pinky” and “Jane,” are expected to testify in the course of the trial that Kelly sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers.
Bonjean, meanwhile, said the prosecution’s case “really depends on the testimony of liars, extortionists, (and) people engaged in the pornography trade.”
The opening statements began Wednesday after two full days of jury selection. The 12 judges and six deputies were sworn in late Tuesday; on Wednesday morning, a juror was replaced by a deputy after developing a medical problem. They are expected to hear evidence and arguments over the next four weeks.