Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic language used in court testimony
A woman who said she was R. Kelly’s girlfriend for five years took the stand Monday to testify about how she went to audition for him as a 17-year-old high schooler who dreamed of becoming an R&B recording artist, only to be sexually abused by the singer.
The woman testified anonymously but has previously spoken out publicly about her experiences with the singer. CNN is not naming the witness, who testified as “Jane Doe.”
She is the eighth witness to testify at Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn, where he is facing racketeering and sex trafficking charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On the witness stand Monday, the 23-year-old woman said she was a Florida high school junior when she met Kelly at a music festival, and that after a member of his entourage handed her his phone number, she reached out to him for advice on entering the music industry. She was 17, she testified, but she told Kelly she was 18.
Doe said she spent months going to Kelly’s shows across the country and testified that he directed her to tell his assistant to book her travel. Their relationship quickly became sexual, she testified, and then, violent.
Kelly, dressed in a black suit with a mustard-colored shirt and a black face mask, was emotionless during her testimony, which was visible to media and members of the public only through a grainy video feed in separate courtrooms.
Attorneys for Kelly had no comment on her testimony when asked by CNN.
During opening statements, defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker described the female witness as a “long-term girlfriend” of Kelly, saying she “is just another example of someone who ended up having a motive.”
‘I just wanted to sing’
Doe cried softly when she described the kinds of music classes she was taking and sports she was playing as a high schooler when she met Kelly. He was 48.
She said she saw him perform at a Florida music festival in 2015 and testified that after Kelly reached out to her in the crowd and sang to her, a member of his entourage handed her his phone number and said, “Don’t tell anyone.”
Doe ultimately reached out to Kelly using the phone number she’d been given because he was a singer, too, and she wanted advice.
“I felt that any critique would be a good critique,” she testified.
Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said in her opening statement last week that Kelly told the girl’s parents he could help her with her career.
“He told her she was the next Aaliyah,” Melendez said, referencing the late singer whom Kelly wed when she was just 15.
Kelly asked Doe to audition for him at a nearby hotel a few days after the concert. When Doe arrived, Kelly asked her to sit on his lap and kiss him.
“I didn’t necessarily want to,” she testified.
He then invited her up to a room at the hotel, according to her testimony.
“Before I could audition, he needed to (ejaculate),” she testified he told her.
Doe testified that Kelly persistently tried to persuade her to have sex with him or let him perform sexual acts on her, saying if she agreed, he would take care of her “for life.”
“I didn’t necessarily care for that. I just wanted to sing,” she said.
At some point during their time in the hotel room, officers knocked on the door because the girl’s parents had been unable to get a hold of her, Doe said. When Kelly asked how old she was, she told him she was 18.
‘I was trying to run from him and fight back’
After she met R. Kelly in April 2015, Jane Doe began traveling to meet Kelly at shows he was performing around the country, and testified that Kelly told her he wanted to teach her “musical techniques to better me as a singer.”
Doe testified that she was told to reach out to one of Kelly’s personal assistants to coordinate travel. Doe testified she sent her legal birthdate to the assistant, along with the cities Kelly had requested Doe travel to.
“Mr. Kelly said to get me to LA on an early flight,” Doe said, reading a text from April 2015. Doe read from multiple similar texts that had been sent to the assistant requesting that she book travel, allegedly at Kelly’s direction.
Doe testified that Kelly began having sexual intercourse with her in May 2015.
“We had sex almost every day,” she testified. “Every time we had sex, he would record it.”
Doe testified that Kelly began recording them having sex when she was 17, using one of multiple iPads he carried with him in a backpack.
Toward the end of the summer of 2015, Doe testified that sex became painful.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t physically even walk,” she testified.
After visiting a doctor, Doe found out she’d contacted herpes. She testified she was “devastated” after the diagnosis, saying she felt Kelly had “purposely given me something that he knew that he had.” She testified that Kelly had not used protection with her on many occasions and that he had not disclosed he had been diagnosed with genital herpes several years earlier.
“I had told him (Kelly) and he was agitated and said that I could have gotten that from anyone,” Doe testified through tears. “I told him that I had only been intimate with him.”
Doe said she would “continually” get herpes outbreaks after having sex with him, to which Kelly responded, “I think your pussy is broken.”
She read from documents she’d created with lists of “rules” that Kelly had given her and reminders of how to act. She was not to leave a room she was staying in without asking for permission.
“Stop defending myself. Anything daddy says is to help me,” she said, reading from a handwritten list. “Thank him and be happy and fix the problem.”
Doe said she finally told Kelly she was 17 at the end of the summer, when she needed to return to Florida to begin her senior year of high school.
“I was very scared and when I told him, he slapped me in the face with an open palm and then he walked away,” Doe testified. “He had never hit me ever before.”
Eventually, Doe said, Kelly told her “he would speak with his attorney to figure out everything.”
The solution Kelly suggested: “I would need to be homeschooled and living with him in Chicago,” she testified.
She testified that both she and Kelly persuaded her parents to let her be homeschooled so she could continue to learn about music from him.
Eventually, Doe said, Kelly began to physically abuse her often.
When she was still 17, Doe testified Kelly told her he would need to “chastise” her, or spank her, as a “way to help me be better.”
“I would get chastised nearly every two to three days. Spankings,” she testified. “He would leave bruises and sometimes it would make my skin tear.”
The spankings eventually led to beatings, she testified. One day, when she was still 17, she said Kelly beat her after learning she had told friends about her sexual relationship with the singer, according to her testimony.
Kelly hit her on her face, her arms, her buttocks – all over her body, she testified, saying he even grabbed one of his Air Force 1 Nike shoes and hit her with it.
“I was trying to run from him and fight back but I was no match,” Doe testified.
She testified that she is 4 feet, 11 inches tall, and that Kelly is 6 feet tall.
Through the years, she became a part of Kelly’s group of girlfriends. Every year they would get together and write letters, at Kelly’s direction, that claimed each of the girlfriends had committed an act such as stealing.
“They (the letters) were to basically exploit us to protect him,” she testified.
Doe testified she became pregnant in 2017 and that Kelly pushed her to have an abortion.
“He had expressed that he had still wanted me to keep my body tight and he wanted to have a family after he got rid of the rest of the girls,” Doe testified.
Doe testified that, in addition to letters the girlfriends wrote that were meant to protect the singer, Kelly also directed them to create embarrassing or damaging videos that could be used against them.
In one video, Doe testified that Kelly directed her to smear feces on her face.
“He told me exactly what to do in the video,” she testified. “He told me to smear it in my face and what to exactly say and to, like, put it in my mouth and act like I enjoyed that.”
“Did you want to be doing that?” Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes asked.
“No,” Doe replied. “I did not.”
She testified that after she made the video, Kelly told her she didn’t look like she was “into it” enough and asked her to refilm it, which she did not do.