the r. kelly trial

R. Kelly Found Guilty on All Counts in Sex-Crimes Trial

Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans-Pool/Getty Images

R. Kelly was found guilty on all counts in his Brooklyn federal court trial on Monday, September 27. Kelly was charged with one racketeering count and eight Mann Act counts. The Mann Act is a law prohibiting transporting people across state lines for illegal sexual activity. To make their case, prosecutors called 45 witnesses. Eleven of them were Kelly’s accusers; nine were female, two male.Kelly was charged in relation to six women: Jerhonda Pace, Jane, Stephanie, Sonja, Faith, and Aaliyah.

Kelly, wearing a dark-blue pinstripe suit and pale-blue tie, walked into the courtroom shortly after 3 p.m. carrying a folio. After the jury entered and Judge Ann Donnelly asked the foreman to read the verdict, Kelly kept his head down. Even as the jury foreman said, “Guilty, your honor,” with each count, Kelly did not show emotion. The foreman, who was wearing a brown suit and green tie, was steady as he delivered the panel’s decision. The foreman glanced at the verdict sheet for reference but always looked at Donnelly when giving the decision. The other jurors, seven men and five women, looked ahead throughout the brief proceeding. They appeared serious but not tired after sitting through more than a month of harrowing testimony. This was the first time during Kelly’s trial that press were permitted in the courtroom. Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced on May 4, 2021.

Here are the stories of Kelly’s accusers.

Jerhonda Pace

The first accuser to testify in Kelly’s trial, Pace said that she met him at age 14, when attending his 2008 Chicago child-pornography trial. Pace said that their first sexual encounter was in spring 2009; Kelly invited her over and said to bring a bathing suit. Pace had initially told Kelly she was 19.

“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 … I felt uncomfortable, and I told him I was actually 16. He asked me: ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ And to continue to tell everyone I was 19 and to act 21. He told me that he was going to train me on how to please him sexually. He recorded us having sexual intercourse. He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a Girl Scout.”

She said they had sexual encounters for about six months, and ultimately she left him after he allegedly slapped her. Pace described the incident in a diary entry she read on the witness stand. “I went to Rob’s house and Rob called me ‘silly,’ he called me a ‘silly bitch.’ Rob slapped me three times and he said if I lied to him again, it’s not going to be an open hand next time. He spit in my face and in my mouth. He choked me during an argument. I had sex with him. I had oral sex with him. I became fed up with him. I went home and confessed.”

The jury found that Kelly had committed crimes against Jerhonda.

Jane

Once one of Kelly’s longtime live-in girlfriends, Jane said that she met him in spring 2015, at one of his concerts in Orlando, Florida, at age 17. She was a junior in high school. Jane said that Kelly lured her into his world by saying that he would mentor her singing career. Jane, who said that she developed herpes shortly after their first sexual encounter, left him several months after his July 2019 arrest on federal sex-crimes charges.

“Every single time we would have vaginal penetration, I would have discomfort. Initially, he would joke and say it’s just because he’s ‘too big size-wise.’ It got worse … it got to the point where I physically couldn’t even walk. [The doctor] said that I had contracted an STD — herpes. Vaginal herpes. I was devastated. I had told him, and he was agitated and said, ‘You could have gotten that from anyone.’ I told him I had only been intimate with him.”

Jane said that Kelly had abused her for years, including “chastising” —hitting with an open palm — which was punishment for not following his many rules. “He said that it was just a spanking to help me remember [the rules]. I would get chastised nearly every two to three days. He would leave bruises, and sometimes it would make my skin tear.”

The jury found that Kelly committed crimes against Jane.

Stephanie

Stephanie said that she met Kelly in 1998, at a Chicago McDonald’s. One of Kelly’s associates gave Stephanie the singer’s phone number and told her to call. Stephanie told this associate she was 16. While Stephanie didn’t call Kelly after that encounter, she saw him in summer 1999 at a Nike store. Stephanie went there with the hopes of connecting Kelly with her then-roommate, who was an aspiring singer. He invited her to his studio. She was 17. “I waited there a few hours. There was a little bit of chitchat and we had sex that day.”

Stephanie, who turned 18 in October 1999, said their encounters were humiliating, with him demanding that she disrobe and get in specific positions. “So I would just be completely naked with my butt in the air … waiting for him to come and have his way,” she recalled.

Stephanie testified that Kelly justified his predilection for young girls by comparing himself to Jerry Lee Lewis, the “Great Balls of Fire” rocker who wed his 13-year-old cousin, during a dinner with two Chicago rappers. “He mentioned that he likes young girls and that people make such a big deal of it. ‘Even look at Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s a genius, I’m a genius. We should be allowed to do whatever we want.’”

The jury found that Kelly sexually exploited Stephanie as a minor.

Faith

The 19-year-old Texas native was attending an R. Kelly concert with her sister in March 2017 when two young ladies approached them. These young ladies, who sported shirts that said “STAFF,” explained that Kelly was having an after-party backstage. During this post-show get-together, Kelly gave Faith his phone number; after pursuing her with texts, calls, and FaceTime chats, Kelly arranged for her travel to New York that May, where he was having a concert. Kelly coerced Faith into sex in her hotel room, she said.

“I told him I wasn’t ready for sex. He says, ‘Well, I’m at my best when I’m wanted.’ It was like a poke. He, like, literally spread me open — it felt like I was being examined by an OB/GYN. I was just kind of like, Ugh, I don’t know how to react to that. I said, ‘Are you going to use a condom?’ He said, ‘I don’t need a condom.’”

Faith, who said that Kelly once coerced her into giving him oral sex with a gun in the room, claimed that she became unwell several days after their last sexual encounter in February 2018, and was subsequently diagnosed with herpes. “Once I had got back to San Antonio, maybe like three days [later], I was coming down with a cold. On the fourth day of having a cold, my mouth had bumps everywhere. My mouth was inflamed with bumps. I knew it was him.”

The jury found that Kelly committed crimes against Faith.

Sonja

In 2003, Sonja met Kelly at a Salt Lake City, Utah, mall. Sonja, then 21, was interning at a local radio station at the time. She went there in the hopes of landing a career-making interview. Kelly didn’t want to go to the station for an interview, nor speak with Sonja on the phone. One of Kelly’s handlers gave Sonja a piece of paper with his phone number on it.

She called and called him until he agreed to an interview. Kelly arranged for Sonja to travel to Chicago. After she arrived at Kelly’s studio there, Sonja said that his associates locked her inside a room for about three days. “I tried to open the door. Come to find out, it was locked from the outside. I was scared, for one. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. It was beyond embarrassing.”

After several days without eating, Sonja was given Chinese food; she took a few bites and then passed out. “I got extremely just, full … felt extremely full and tired. I felt something coming on, like, Okay, I’m done eating. The next thing I remember [is] waking up to some commotion in the room. I was extremely confused. I was looking over to my right. I see Rob. He’s pulling up his pants in the corner. There was some wet stuff between my legs and on my thighs. I know my body. I know when something is wrong. It just felt like somebody and something had been inside of [me]. I believe … I was touched sexually.”

The jury did not find that Kelly committed crimes against Sonja, whose allegations were part of his racketeering charge.

Anna

The ninth accuser to take the stand against Kelly, Anna testified that she was 19 or 20 when she met him backstage at a concert in South Carolina, in 2016. Anna and Kelly swapped numbers and started communicating. Anna saw Kelly again in Atlanta, when she traveled to the city to see a friend. She said that she started living with Kelly not long after.

Anna said that she had to follow rules, such as how she could interact with his other girlfriends. If Anna broke any of the rules, Kelly would retaliate with punishments such as “spankings or, you know, no going out and about. It was really an option between the two.”

If they were traveling and Anna needed to use the bathroom, she would sometimes “use a cup” if Kelly couldn’t be contacted to give permission. She also said that he mandated her to make embarrassing videos where she was “being sexual and seductive with bodily fluids.” Anna left Kelly in late 2018.

Louis

The first male to publicly accuse Kelly of sexual misconduct, Louis said that they met in 2006. Louis, then 17, was working at a McDonald’s; Kelly’s car passed through the drive-through lane. Kelly asked Louis to pass a female colleague, whom he’d seen, his phone number. Louis did so, and Kelly gave him a piece of paper with his phone number as well. Louis, who wanted to be a musician, gave this paper to his mom. She called with Louis within earshot; Kelly invited them to a get-together at his suburban Chicago home. Louis and his parents went. Louis said his first sexual encounter with Kelly took place one of the times Kelly summoned him to his home privately.

“We sat around and talked for a while. He just asked me: What was I willing to do for the music? He said, ‘You ever had a fantasy about a man?’ I said no. He crawled down on his knees and proceeded to give me oral sex. I said I didn’t like it, I wasn’t into it. [Kelly stopped.] He just told me, ‘Keep it between me and him. We’re family now. We’re brothers.’”

Louis — who also revealed that he pleaded guilty to attempted bribery for trying to get a potential witness not to testify against Kelly — said he was pressured into sex with a stranger while Kelly watched. “He had come into the [garage], and he snapped his fingers two times, and a young lady crawled out from under the ring. [Kelly] told her to crawl over to him and give him oral sex. It was just weird.” They had sexual encounters for several years.

Addie

The fourth accuser to testify in Kelly’s trial, Addie said that he assaulted her on September 2, 1994 — two days after Kelly, then 27, illegally married Aaliyah, who was 15. Addie was 17. She said that she and her 19-year-old best friend went to Kelly’s show in Miami. A friend of Addie’s mother, who worked at an area radio station, had gotten all-access tickets. Addie’s mother gave the teens these passes.

“When the concert ended, a couple of minutes after, there were some gentlemen who approached me and my best friend, asking if we’d like to get an autograph. They asked if me and my best friend wanted to go and get autographs from Kelly. I automatically assumed, because I was underage, I couldn’t go back there. Once we got into the room, he stopped doing interviews and we approached him, and that’s when we engaged in conversation. I told him I was an aspiring artist as well. He also wrote down a [hotel] room number, suggesting to come by for an audition. I told him I wasn’t sure I was even allowed to be in the room, because I was 17 years old. He didn’t respond about my age.”

Kelly spoke with one of the bouncers. Everyone was directed out of the room except Kelly and the two teens. Kelly told them that he wanted to play a game, to see who could kiss better. Kelly kissed her best friend, who returned the kiss but then pulled back. He kissed Addie, who similarly returned the kiss before stopping. “He started getting a little more aggressive and basically kind of moved toward the back of the room … holding my wrists and unzipped my pants. He sort of guided me to the back of the room. He had sex with me unprotected.”

Angela

Angela testified that she met Kelly in 1991, when she was 14 or 15 years old. Angela’s pal, Tiffany, took her to a party at Kelly’s Chicago apartment. Kelly and some of his crew were there, as well as several other young females. They were all hanging out in the common area. She said that Kelly went into another room, and then young ladies joined him. Angela testified that they had intercourse.

“All of us, one by one, all of the young ladies … I don’t recall if it was Tiffany or Robert who invited me into the room, but I was asked to come into the room. He asked me to climb on top of him. I paused for a moment. I was a little startled. The defendant asked me to straddle him and to ride him. I asked if I could grab a condom. After that, I proceeded to put the condom on the gentleman and straddled him.”

Angela said that she wound up becoming a backup dancer for Kelly and that he introduced her to Aaliyah on the singer’s 13th birthday. Aaliyah came on tour with them in 1992 or 1993. Angela said that she witnessed Kelly’s alleged sexual misconduct with Aaliyah when she and a friend went to play a prank on Kelly, who was in the bedroom of his tour bus. “I saw Robert and Aaliyah in a sexual situation. It appeared that he had his head in between her legs and was giving her oral sex. I closed the door abruptly and pushed the girl behind me away from the door.”

Kate

Kate was 27 when she met Kelly in Chicago in 2001, connected through a mutual friend. Kate said that she went to Kelly’s studio; on two occasions, he tried to get her to participate in sex acts with him and at least one other woman. She said no. Kate and Kelly had intercourse later and kept seeing one another until 2004. Before the first time they had sex, Kate said she was concerned about STIs.

“I worried about multiple sexual partners and worried about the AIDS virus. Prior to it, I had asked if he was going to wear something. At first, he just kind of looked at me quizzically. I repeated it. I said, ‘Are you going to use something?’ He just said, ‘No.’ I had asked him if he was quote-unquote okay … I don’t recall the actual answer.”

Kate said that she noticed a small bump in her “lower region” in 2001 and was diagnosed with herpes. She and her attorney reached a $200,000 settlement with Kelly in 2004 over the herpes he purportedly gave her.

Alex

Alex, the second male accuser to take the stand against Kelly, said that they met in 2007, when he was 16. He claimed that Louis, his friend at the time, introduced them. Alex said he and Kelly had their first sexual encounter when he was age 20. He said that Kelly pressured him into unwanted sex acts, including encounters with women while Kelly looked on. Alex also claimed to have had numerous sexual encounters with Kelly.

Aaliyah

While R&B star Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, at age 22, the allegations that Kelly sexually abused her earlier in her career, when the singer was underage, were a major part of this trial. Prosecutors elicited testimony from witnesses that not only established that Kelly had an inappropriate relationship with his teen protégée — but also showed that they illegally wed on August 31, 1994. Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former tour manager, was one of these witnesses. Smith was reluctant in describing the pair’s relationship as untoward, and said Kelly denied this when he asked about it. Eventually, Smith revealed his suspicions.

“I thought that they were playful and at times, I was concerned. ‘Robert, everything cool with you and Aaliyah?’ I just thought they were over-playful. ‘Robert, are you messing with Aaliyah or anything?’ He’d say, ‘No.’ I didn’t want people to have the wrong vision of things.” Smith, who conceded “they were more than friends from the very beginning,” claimed that he bribed a welfare-office clerk so that Aaliyah could get an ID that would allow her to illegally marry Kelly while underage. Kelly believed that Aaliyah, then 15, was pregnant. Kelly was 27. Smith said he witnessed the marriage.

Another accuser, Angela, testified that she saw Kelly sexually abuse Aaliyah on a tour bus in 1992 or 1993, when the late singer would have been 13 or 14 years old.

The jury found that Kelly committed a crime in relation to Aaliyah.

Witness testimony has been condensed for length. 

This post contains breaking news and will be updated accordingly.

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R. Kelly Found Guilty on All Counts in Sex-Crimes Trial