R. Kelly’s trial continues


Reanne James, Senior Reporter

We are now entering the fourth week of the disgraced R&B singer, R. Kelly’s trial.

Kelly’s trial in the U.S District Court in New York began on August 18th of 2021, where he is being charged with racketeering, and a violation of the Mann Act in New York. He is facing additional charges of child pornography and obstruction in Chicago. This second trial is set to begin on September 13th. 

Kelly is also being charged with multiple, underlying federal offenses such as human trafficking, kidnapping, forced labor, child pornography, bribery, sex trafficking and has eight known violations of the Mann Act, a federal law in which it is illegal to transport a woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution. All charges dating back decades with six witnesses, that include the late R&B singer Aaliyah, who is addressed as “Jane Doe No. 1” throughout the trial by prosecutors.  

In New York, where the first three weeks of the trial has taken place, federal prosecutors are trying to alter people’s perception of his career as an R&B superstar to what a lot of people claim it truly is, a “criminal enterprise;” where he is accused of running an organization where his managers, drivers, bodyguards, entourage, and other employees recruit women and underage girls for illegal sexual activity. 

So far, R Kelly has denied and pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.

The New York prosecutors plan to introduce evidence that involves up to nineteen women who were victims of R Kelly, seven of the women claiming to be underage at the time they were abused by Kelly, and one seventeen year old boy who alleges Kelly abused him after they crossed paths in 2006 at a McDonald’s. 

Kelly will not directly be charged with all of the sexual abuse, child pornography, forced labor, human trafficking, and bribery counts from each of his accusers, however, the prosecutors believe the accusers’ claims of these charges are relevant to the racketeering charge he’s facing and could be used by prosecutors as evidence for the theory of his R&B career being a “criminal enterprise.” 

The rest of the first three weeks of the trial include witness testimonies that confirmed the facilitation of Kelly’s very illegal marriage to the now deceased R&B singer and Kelly’s protégé, Aaliyah, when she had been underage, along with more detailed testimonies of victims recounting being forced into sexual activity and domestic abuse on multiple occasions. 

Jerhonda Johnson Pace, was the first of the six witnesses to take the stand during trial on the first day of the sex trafficking trial. She detailed the horrific abuse she experienced by the hand of R. Kelly. 

She went to a party at Kelly’s house in Chicago May of 2009, where she first met and she had sex with him despite her only being 16 years old. 

When she revealed her age to him Kelly would tell Pace to “continue to tell everyone she was 19 and act like she was 21.” 

On Pace’s last day at R Kelly’s home, she recalled that Kelly had become extremely enraged after she texted a friend which led to him spitting on her, slapping her, and choking her to the point of passing out. After oral sex with R Kelly Pace would wipe her face with the blue shirt she was wearing that she would keep; the shirt would be tested for R Kelly’s DNA and come back positive. It is being utilized as evidence in the trial and presented to the jury.

Later on in the trial Kelly’s primary care doctor for 25 years up until recent in 2019, Kris McGrath, was called to the stand under a court order that required him to come to court and testify (a subpoena). Over 200 pages of Kelly’s medical records would be utilized as evidence to back up the claim that Kelly knowingly transmitted sexual diseases to multiple of his victims without informing them of his sexual diseases. 

The fourth week of R. Kelly’s trial began in Brooklyn federal court R kelly’s where his eighth and ninth accusers would testify. A woman identified as “Sonja” had took the stand and testified that she was imprisoned in Kelly’s Chicago studio for days where she was assaulted. Sonja’s testimony was the first during the trial that Kelly would be accused of drugging and raping a victim, however, it was only implied and the prosectuors would not directly say that she was “drugged.”

Sonja, who at the time was 21 years old, met R. Kelly outside of a Utah mall in 2003, when she interned at a Utah radio station, she approached him for an interview and was declined and then offered the opportunity to conduct the interview at Kelly’s Chocolate Factory studio in Chicago. 

Upon arrival at Kelly’s studio Sonja was then given a list of rules such as, she had to ask for permission to eat and go to the bathroom. Then for the next several days Sonja would be locked in a room where she was only fed takeout Chinese food, and was assaulted by R Kelly. 

During their cross-examantion Kelly’s lawyers would accuse Sonja of making up her story — which she could be charged with in the court of law and and spend up to a year in jail for — due to her never publicly accusing Kelly of sexual assault in the past. 

Following Sonja, a woman identified as “Anna” would testify next, she met Kelly at a concert that was in South Carolina in 2016, she had been 19 or 20 years old at the time, they would exchange numbers and met up in Atlanta with him a few months later. Anna would state that the beginning of their relationship was fun until he became controlling and abusive, she would describe the disturbing rules that Kelly would make her follow,  along with his other girlfriends who she lived with in an area upstairs at Kelly’s Atlanta estate  — Anna would also go into detail about the inhumane punishments she would receive if she broke a rule.

Nickyale Neblett, a freshmen in High school, says “It’s insane to think all of these people who have been hurt by R Kelly, and they’re only now in 2021 getting some sort of justice after all these years of people writing them and not believing them.”

If you are a survivor of sexual assault you can call the National Sexual Assualt Hotline RAINN at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to get in contact with a support specialist at all hours of the day.