CHICAGO — The teen girl at the center of R. Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial took the witness stand for the first time Thursday, testifying in Chicago’s federal courthouse that she engaged in sex acts with Kelly “hundreds” of times while she was between the ages of 15 and 18.
Now 37 years old, the woman identified only as “Jane” told jurors that she was first introduced to Kelly by her aunt in the mid-1990s when she was 13 years old. Her aunt, she said, was a musical artist as well and was romantically linked to Kelly at the time.
That same aunt later told “Jane” that she should ask Kelly to be her “godfather,” and “Jane” testified that Kelly agreed, but started making sexual advances toward her just weeks later.
While speaking on the phone, Kelly asked “Jane” what color her underwear was and he told her that he was pleasuring himself, “Jane” testified. Phone sex soon escalated to physical touching and, ultimately, intercourse, she said.
“Were you meeting up so you could engage in these sex acts?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng asked during direct examination.
“Yes,” Jane, sporting long blonde braids and wearing a white sport coat, responded.
“Jane” was the girl allegedly seen in the tape at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography case, in which he was ultimately acquitted. She did not testify in that case and initially denied any sexual involvement when she testified before a Cook County grand jury in 2002. On Thursday, though, she positively identified herself as the female in that video, and she said it was recorded at Kelly’s former home in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Her testimony Thursday marked the first time that “Jane” publicly addressed her relationship with Kelly, which, she said, lasted until 2014 when she moved out of Kelly’s former home in south suburban Olympia Fields after the singer became abusive.
On the witness stand for more than four hours, “Jane” detailed how she felt beholden to Kelly, keeping their relationship secret in an effort to protect him and his career. She said she eventually grew to love Kelly, and the two discussed getting married.
“I was afraid that something bad would happen to Robert. I wanted to protect him so I did everything I could to keep it a secret,” she said. “That was something I was going to take to my grave,” she added. “It was instilled in me not to admit that to anybody and that’s exactly what I did.”
In an effort to head off questions from defense attorneys, Appenteng also asked “Jane” if she received an immunity deal from prosecutors in exchange for her truthful testimony. “Jane” acknowledged that she did, and Appenteng asked why she waited so long to come forward.
“I became exhausted with living with his lies,” she said.
Her testimony will resume Friday morning when “Jane” will be subject to cross-examination from Kelly’s attorneys.
Prosecutors in the current case said that jurors will be shown clips of three videos that allegedly show Kelly engaging in sex acts with “Jane.” Those videos could be shown as soon as Friday.
“Jane” is one of several witnesses who will deliver testimony under a pseudonym. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber also instructed the two courtroom sketch artists to not draw “Jane’s” face.
A federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Kelly, 55, on 13 counts in July 2019, accusing him of producing and receiving child pornography, while also enticing minors to engage in illegal sexual activity. Earlier this year, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn after he was found guilty of racketeering.
The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer — who has remained in law enforcement custody since his 2019 arrest — was initially charged with sexually abusing five minors, though a superseding indictment in 2020 added a sixth alleged victim. Two of Kelly’s former employees were charged with him in the federal Chicago case: Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown. Both are charged with one count of conspiracy to receive child pornography, while McDavid also faces two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.Prosecutors allege Kelly and those in his inner circle paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in an effort to track down video tapes that Kelly made that allegedly show him engaging in sexual activity with underage victims.
Earlier this year, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn after he was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering.