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Key victim testifies in R Kelly’s latest trial

By | Published on Friday 19 August 2022

R Kelly

The woman who appeared, aged fourteen, in the video that was at the centre of the 2008 R Kelly sexual abuse trial took to the witness stand in the musician’s latest court case yesterday. She told the courtroom that she had decided to testify this time – having stayed silent during the 2000s criminal investigation and legal proceedings – because she had become “exhausted” living with Kelly’s lies.

Kelly is back in court, this time in Chicago, to face further charges in relation to the allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against him for decades. This time last year he was in court in New York where he was found guilty of running a criminal enterprise in order to access and abuse women and teenagers, a conviction which came with a 30 year jail term.

However, when he was tried over allegations of sexual abuse in the 2000s he was acquitted. That earlier trial was sparked by a leaked video tape, which seemed to show Kelly sexually abusing a fourteen year old girl in the late 1990s. However, the girl who investigators believed to be the victim seen in the recording refused to testify, and in court Kelly’s legal team successfully threw doubt on whether it was, in fact, Kelly and the alleged victim who appeared on the tape.

But yesterday that victim, now 37 and referred to as Jane, finally testified against the musician. She first met Kelly via family members, he having signed her aunt to a record deal and hired her father to play guitar in his band. According to the Chicago Tribune, she told the court that she initially formed a friendship with Kelly – despite she being in her early teens and him in his late 20s – because of their shared love of music and basketball.

Once the friendship had been formed, Kelly then started sexually abusing Jane. He made a number of videos documenting that abuse, including the one that instigated the 2000s criminal investigation. Some of those videos will be shown to the jurors during this trial, although yesterday Jane described the incidents that were filmed.

In one video Kelly and Jane are seen having oral sex, with the musician telling her to refer to her genitalia as being “fourteen years old”. He then urinates on her. In another he is seen handing Jane money while he is sexually abusing her. Asked why he gave her money, Jane explained: “Because if anybody saw the tape or if it was released for some reason, he wanted it to appear as if I was a prostitute”.

The sexual abuse began when Jane was around fourteen years old, and progressed to full sexual intercourse when she was fifteen. After that, she said, they had sex “innumerable times”. And on some occasions they would be joined by other teenage girls recruited by Jane at Kelly’s request.

Anticipating the line of questioning likely to be pursued by Kelly’s defence team, the prosecution asked Jane why she had previously repeatedly denied having a sexual relationship with the musician. She first denied that relationship when Chicago police were investigating allegations of abuse that had been made against Kelly as far back as 2000, and again after the leaking of the videotape, including in front of a grand jury in 2002.

She had lied, she said yesterday, “because I was afraid to expose Robert – I also did not want that person to be me, I was ashamed”. Once the video tape had leaked, Kelly stressed it was important that she continue to deny that they had ever had sex, adding that she should insist it was not her on the tape. He did at that point, however, admit to Jane’s parents what had happened, in a bid to keep them on his side.

Needless to say, they were initially shocked. “I just remember my dad storming out”, she told the court. “He was saying, ‘I can’t help you, I can’t help you’ … he was hysterical”. Fearing that Jane’s parents couldn’t be trusted to stick to the lie if interviewed by investigators or journalists, Kelly and his team sent the family to the Bahamas and Cancun so they couldn’t be contacted.

When they returned, Jane said, Kelly’s legal team were in full on damage limitation mode. Jane was wearing a distinctive cross necklace in the video and the same necklace could be seen in her then passport photo. Lawyers demanded that she hand over both the necklace and the passport.

Meanwhile, during her time out of the US, Jane had got a tattoo of a heart with Kelly’s name on it. Fearing that could be used against him, Kelly arranged for the tattoo to be altered so that his name was obscured.

When the grand jury session came about, Kelly coached Jane on what to say and how to act. And as the musician began preparing for the trial that ultimately went ahead in 2008, he had Jane move into his Chicago mansion, so that she was “under his wing”. During this time Kelly became physical abusive, spanking and hitting Jane, especially if she tried to leave his home.

She did finally leave though, when she was around 23 or 24. However, she still remained reliant on Kelly financially. He helped her pay her rent and gave her a car, she said. And in 2014 she received a cheque with the word “settlement” written on it, even though no settlement had been discussed.

Jane is due to return to the witness stand later today to be questioned by Kelly’s defence lawyer.