This report includes allegations and descriptions of sexual and physical abuse.
For five weeks, multiple witnesses have taken the stand at the federal trial in New York against disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly, as he faces racketeering and sexual abuse charges.
Throughout the dozens of testimonies, disturbing details surrounding the multiple allegations against the Grammy Award-winning singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, have been made public, including accusations of him knowingly spreading herpes, women forced into captivity left to urinate in cups, and forced sexual relationships with teenage girls and boys, among other harrowing stories.
As the trial nears an end, the events that transpired have resulted in a mountainous heap of horrendous tales about Kelly’s alleged crimes dating back nearly three decades. On Monday (Sept. 20), the prosecution rested its case. In the weeks before, the prosecution called 45 witnesses, including 11 victims, NPR reported.
Kelly also faces a case in Chicago’s federal courthouse where he is accused of tampering with his 2008 trial in Cook County where he was found not guilty on child pornography charges. He is also the subject of a solicitation case in state court in Minnesota.
Below, read the trial occurrences thus far as both the victims and accused prepare for a verdict.
Kelly Will Not Take The Stand
On Wednesday (Sept. 22), the 54-year-old told the judge he would not take the witness stand in his own defense; therefore, avoiding cross-examination. ABC News reported U.S. District Judge Ann Connelly clarified the decision with Kelly before moving forward.
“You don’t want to testify, correct?” asked Judge Connelly, to which he responded: “Yes, ma’am.”
His defense team began laying out their case on Monday (Sept. 20), calling their own witnesses to the stand.
Defense And Witnesses Were Seemingly Unprepared
According to Rolling Stone, Kelly’s defense submitted the shortlist of witnesses at the last minute, causing complaints from the prosecution and remarks from Judge Connelly. One of the witnesses was not in town and the defense team shared it was in the process of locating funds to aid in the person’s travel.
“It disappoints me that you waited so long to furnish a list of names,” remarked the judge.
All of the witnesses the defense called to the stand shared some proximity with Kelly and testified they had not seen any of the alleged behavior. However, the prosecution refuted those claims by questioning the degree of their closeness with the “Ignition” singer and their likeliness to observe his personal life.
One witness was an aspiring artist named Dhanai Ramnanan who met Kelly at an Albuquerque, N.M., mall in the mid-2000s. The two men developed a working relationship for the next 15 years. He testified that Kelly “opened doors for women” and “stood up for [them] when they entered the room.”
He stated that he could not remember the exact year he met Kelly at the mall, toured with the singer but could not remember any specific concert names, and recorded with him in the studio although no music was ever released. The prosecution presented three different photos of Kelly with women on a tour bus and asked Ramnanan to find himself in the picture, and in all three instances, he could not.
The second witness, Larry Hood, worked as Kelly’s security guard and has known Kelly since their youth. He worked for the artist during the 1990s and returned for a second tour from 2002 to 2004. Hood testified that as a former police officer, he did not see any illegal or abusive behaviors or he would have stopped them from happening.
Although he testified in court he was unaware the $100 bills he brandished in 2007 were fake, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge. The prosecution used this behavior to suggest a pattern, as Hood also testified he was unaware of Kelly’s marriage to an underage Aaliyah.
According to the Chicago Tribune a third witness, Julius Darrington, worked as a music consultant for RCA Records and had been working on developing a new album with Kelly over several years since 2016. Darrington testified that he frequently traveled from Los Angeles to Chicago to Kelly’s studio and often engaged in basketball games with the singer and slept in the lounge.
In his testimony, he stated he never witnessed girls locked up, nor heard crying or physical abuse. However, the prosecution responded by pointing out that Darrington was only there part-time and had no way to be knowledgeable of Kelly’s actions when he returned to his West Coast residence.
“I assume you were never present when the defendant was engaged in sexual activity?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata.
“Correct,” responded Darrington.
“So you have no knowledge of what [Kelly] did behind closed doors when you weren’t there?” Shihata continued to which Darrington answered, “Correct.”
Multiple Victims Shared Similar Stories In Testimonies
Kelly’s victims all shared their experiences with verbal abuse, strict rules, sexual abuse, and more. While their experiences varied in some details, all relayed accounts that spoke to his alleged cruelty.
One woman testified Kelly forced her to have an abortion. According to BBC, Jane Doe No. 5 said she engaged in a five-year relationship with Kelly starting in 2014 when she was 17 years old. Along with the ordered abortion, she claimed he purposely gave her herpes, attempted to control every aspect of her life, and punished her when she broke any rules.
She told the jury she was sometimes hit hard enough to make her “skin tear” and was the victim of physical abuse “nearly every two to three days.”
Another woman, identified as Stephanie, says Kelly took advantage of her in 1999 when she was also 17. In her testimony, she claimed the singer was well aware of her age and alleged he had two sides.
“That was definitely the hardest time of my life,” she told the jury according to the New York Times. “I had very low self-esteem. I’d already been through sexual trauma within my family, by my first boss, by men on the street. I was very vulnerable.”
She continued, “He humiliated me, he degraded me, he scared me. I’ll never forget the way he treated me.”
As VIBE previously reported, Jerhonda Johnson Pace also took the stand, opening up about her experience with R. Kelly. As the first witness called by the prosecution, she also provided DNA evidence from a T-shirt she kept following a violent encounter.
According to NPR, another commonality in the victims’ accounts was Kelly’s use of iPads to record his sexual encounters, punishments, as well as keep surveillance on the young women who lived with him. He also allegedly had multiple victims pen letters under false pretenses.
Witness Testifies On Aaliyah’s Behalf
According to USA Today, one of R. Kelly’s former backup dancers, identified as Angela, stated she witnessed him engaging in a “sexual situation” with Aaliyah around the year 1993 when the “Rock The Boat” singer was only 13 or 14 years old. The witness described opening the door on the tour bus to see Kelly performing a sexual act on Aaliyah.
A former R. Kelly employee also testified that fake IDs were used so that Kelly could marry a then-15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994, the same year her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which Kelly solely wrote and produced, was released. The witness stated that Kelly believed she had become pregnant.
A marriage license provided as evidence falsely listed her age as 18 while Kelly was 27 at the time. Prosecutors claimed the marriage, which was later annulled, was an attempt to prevent Aaliyah from being able to testify against Kelly on criminal charges relating to sex with a minor. Aaliyah, however, never got to see R. Kelly in court. She died in a tragic airplane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.
The backup dancer also testified Kelly had sex with her when she was 15 years old.
R. Kelly’s Former Associates Offered Key Testimony
While many witnesses testified about being victims of Kelly’s alleged crimes and that their communication and involvement with the singer was facilitated by others, a bulk of the accounts shared were from his former friends, assistants, and other employees. Some of those people took the stand, sharing their side of the story for the prosecution.
According to the New York Times, one victim claimed that she traveled to interview R. Kelly as a member of the media but was asked by an employee if she needed a condom upon greeting her. Another said they were threatened by Kelly’s team with the exposure of explicit videos and pictures if she did not withdraw a lawsuit. Demetrius Smith, a former tour manager of Kelly’s testified he was involved in bribing a government employee to create the bootleg identifications used in the aforementioned marriage to Aaliyah.
Buzzfeed reported a former talent manager and later assistant to R. Kelly testified in court that she was threatened as well. Cheryl Mack claimed she was told, “Generally in these situations, people come up missing,” when a teenaged singer named Precious attempted to sue Kelly in 2009. Mack, the singer’s manager at the time, was subpoenaed by prosecutors and shared she did not want to appear in court. Later in 2013, Mack began working directly with Kelly as his executive assistant.
“When she left, everything just happened so fast,” said Mack, tearing up on the stand. “He told me she was trying to file a lawsuit, and I needed to pick a team.”
Diana Copeland, also a former assistant to Kelly testified at the trial. She shared more on her experiences with Good Morning America.
Audio And Video Evidence Was Played For The Jury
Jurors were played audio and video recordings of Kelly during the trial. The Associated Press reported on one of the tapes from 2008 that Kelly can be heard accusing an unidentified woman of lying to him before beginning to assault her.
“If you lie to me, I’m going to fu*k you up,” said Kelly on the recording.
On another tape, he threatens one of the Jane Doe victims from Florida after accusing her of stealing a Rolex watch. The prosecutors had hoped to have her speak during the trial however she “started to have panic attacks and appeared to have an emotional breakdown” while listening to the tape in preparation for her testimony.
“You better not ever … take from me again or I will be in Florida and something will happen to you,” he threatened. “You understand what I’m telling you?”
“The recorded excerpts show (1) the type of physical and psychological abuse the defendant employed to exert and maintain control over women and girls with whom he was engaged in sexual relationships; and (2) his regular use of audio and video recordings to maintain control of females and protect the charged (criminal) enterprise,” reads the filing.
According to ABC News, the jury examined the evidence through headphones, with the audio not playing out loud for the press and public. Kelly himself appeared to not have on headphones, seemingly also not hearing the alleged disturbing recordings.
R. Kelly is charged with racketeering and with eight violations of the Mann Act, a federal anti-sex trafficking law. He has remained adamant he is innocent and has pleaded not guilty on all charges. The jury could begin deliberations as soon as Thursday (Sept. 23).