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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.
Speaking in federal court in Chicago 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 recordings that 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,” testified Jane, who is expected to retake the stand Friday.
She 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 who prosecutors allege Kelly sexually abused in the late 1990s, making 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 codefendants 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 have pleaded not guilty.
An attorney for Kelly asked jurors during opening statements Wednesday to scrutinize why Jane is coming forward now and changing her testimony from two decades ago.
“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,” Jennifer 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 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 said.
“Why were you untruthful?” Appenteng asked Jane at another point.
“Because I was afraid to expose Robert. Because I was afraid of what might happen to my parents,” she said. “I also did not want that person to be me.”
A family connection
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.
“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 for her church, she testified. Weeks later, Kelly came to one of her group’s concerts.
“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.
“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.
Recordings of sex acts
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. 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?” Appenteng 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 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 he did not know where the original VHS tape featuring multiple recordings is.
“I do not 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 sometimes saw Brown carrying the bag filled with recordings, she testified.
Prosecutors did not play the recordings in court Thursday but warned jurors during opening statements that they will play during the trial portions of the videos that are “difficult to watch.”
Lying to authorities
When the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began investigating an allegation Kelly was having a sexual relationship with Jane in April 2000 when she was 15, Jane testified she denied the relationship. She also testified she later denied to Chicago Police investigators she and Kelly had a sexual relationship.
Jane testified Thursday 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.