TW: This post contains graphic details of sexual assault and domestic violence.
A third woman testified at R. Kelly’s trial Thursday that he sexually abused her when she was a minor, saying that he justified his interest in young girls by comparing himself to Jerry Lee Lewis, the “Great Balls of Fire” rocker who married his 13-year-old cousin.
The woman, who went by “Stephanie” in court, said that Kelly made this startling comparison during a dinner where she, Kelly, and two rappers were present. “He mentioned that he likes young girls and that people make such a big deal of it,” said Stephanie, who was 17 when the alleged abuse began.
“Even look at Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s a genius, I’m a genius,” she remembered Kelly saying. “We should be allowed to do whatever we want.”
The woman, now 39, said she first encountered Kelly in 1998 at a Chicago McDonald’s. She was 16, standing alone at the register. A man came up to her and asked her age. She said 16. He pointed to Kelly, who was sitting in the booth nearest to the register, and asked whether she knew who he was. She said yes. The man gave Stephanie a piece of paper with Kelly’s phone number on it, and told her to call him.
Stephanie was with her boyfriend, his best friend, and his girlfriend at the McDonald’s, and told them about it.
“I threw out his phone number,” she said, “because I didn’t intend to talk to him.”
Stephanie wound up running into Kelly again in summer 1999. She was working at a hotel and living part-time with a friend from high school, who aspired to be a singer. She heard from a hotel co-worker that Kelly was nearby, doing an event at a Nike store. She headed to the store, thinking that Kelly might remember her — and that this could help her friend’s career.
She ran into Kelly as he was leaving the store.
“I asked him if he remembered me, he said ‘yes,’” she recalled. She asked whether he would meet her friend who “had a great voice.” He invited her into his car to chat.
“He said yeah, he thought he could arrange that, but also he’d like to get to know me and also that he likes to cuddle, would I be okay with that,” she said. He gave her a phone number and she ultimately went to his studio about a week or two after this discussion.
After she arrived, someone brought her to the second floor, and led her to a room. There were two sofas. An employee told her “to stay here and wait for him.” The employee then left and she was alone.
“I waited there a few hours,” she said. Kelly arrived and sat down next to her, apologizing for the delay. “There was a little bit of chitchat and we had sex that day.”
He initiated the sex, she alleged. Their sexual encounters continued to take place over a course of six months. She was 17. She turned 18 in October.
“It was humiliating,” she said of their sexual encounters. He would be very specific in his sexual demands, telling her to get undressed and then positioning her body.
“So I would just be completely naked with my but in the air … waiting for him to come and have his way,” she recalled.
Kelly did ask her about her age, at some point after their first sexual encounter. She was nervous because she was underage, but she told him that she was 17. “He said it was fine,” she testified.
Stephanie told prosecutors that Kelly recorded them having sex. She didn’t want to but “did as he asked.”
“I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” she explained. Stephanie said she was 17.
Stephanie said she decided to end the relationship because she couldn’t take it.
“I felt used and humiliated and degraded,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be abused anymore.”
When asked by prosecutors what Kelly was like over the course of the six months during which they had encounters, she said “it would vary.”
“He was either nice and charming and jovial–or he was very controlling [and] intimidating.”
“He’d raise his voice at me. He could put the fear of God in me very quickly.”
The woman is the third accuser to take the stand against Kelly, who is charged in a nine-count indictment with racketeering and sex crimes for allegedly luring girls, young women, and young men into his orbit, to sexually abuse them. Kelly pleaded not guilty to this indictment. He has maintained his innocence.
He is also facing federal charges in Chicago, as well as state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
The first woman who testified against Kelly, Jerhonda Pace, alleged that they had multiple sexual encounters over a period of six months — starting when she was just 16 years old. Pace met Kelly when she was 14 years old in Chicago, at his 2008 child pornography trial. She was ultimately asked to Kelly’s house privately in spring 2009; she was told to bring a bathing suit.
“He sat down on a lounge [chair] and he told me to walk back and forth and to remove a piece of my bathing suit each time,” Pace, who told Kelly she was 19, recounted. When Pace was completely nude, Kelly allegedly grabbed and began kissing her. Kelly then took her into the game room, and performed oral sex on her there.
“I felt uncomfortable, and I told him I was actually 16,” Pace recalled.
“He asked me: ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ And to continue to tell everyone I was 19 and to act 21,” Pace said of Kelly’s response. She told him that she was a virgin. “He told me that he was going to train me on how to please him sexually.” Later, Pace revealed that Kelly recorded her during sex and “wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a Girl Scout.”
The second accuser, who testified using a pseudonym, alleged that Kelly started to sexually abuse her in May 2015 at age 17, when she came to a hotel for an “audition.” She told Kelly at the time that she was 18, but eventually revealed her age later that summer, when she was living with him in Chicago. While Kelly was angry at first, he then told her they would figure out their arrangement and sent her back to Florida. She and Kelly convinced her parents to allow her to be home-schooled, so she could return to Chicago and stay there under the guise of working on her music. The woman said she lived as one of Kelly’s live-in girlfriends for about four years, during which time she allegedly suffered routine sexual abuse. The woman ultimately left Kelly in October 2019, several months after he was indicted on federal sex-crime charges.
Both Pace and the other woman said that they contracted herpes from Kelly. They said that he did not disclose his herpes diagnosis to them prior to engaging in sexual conduct.
During cross-examination, Kelly lawyer Nicole Blank Becker asked Stephanie whether Kelly had physically abused her. Stephanie said no.
Becker tried to intimate that Stephanie engaged in a sexual relationship willingly, and that she didn’t remember everything correctly.
When the prosecution asked her questions again after Becker’s cross-examination, they asked whether there were things she would never forget. Stephanie answered yes.
When asked why she would never forget them, Stephanie put her face in her hands and started crying.
“Because that was the lowest time in my life. I’ve never been treated like that before or since,” she said. “I’ll never forget the way he treated me.”
This story is developing and will be updated accordingly.