A woman who prosecutors say R. Kelly manipulated for sex starting when she was about 14 years old took the witness stand Thursday at Kelly’s child pornography and obstruction of justice trial, becoming the first accuser to testify in the singer’s hometown of Chicago.
The woman — now 37 and referred in pretrial filings as “Minor 1” and during the trial by the pseudonym, “Jane” — has been a central figure in Kelly’s legal troubles going back more than 20 years. Prosecutors say a video Kelly took of himself having sex with Jane around the year 2000 led to the first investigations of the singer.
Speaking softly and tentatively at first, Jane described her upbringing in a musical family in a Chicago suburb, including that she was home-schooled because she was in a touring musical group that she joined when she was about 12.
Among the most serious charges the Grammy Award winner faces at the federal trial is conspiracy to obstruct justice by allegedly rigging a 2008 trial on state child pornography charges stemming from the purported video of him and Jane having sex. Among other things, prosecutors say Kelly paid off and threatened Jane to ensure that she didn’t testify at that trial. She didn’t, and he was ultimately acquitted.
Kelly is also standing trial on charges of producing child pornography and enticing minors for sex.
Unlike at the 2008 trial, Jane cooperated with prosecutors leading up to the current trial and is a pivotal witness.
A conviction in Chicago could add decades to a 30-year prison sentence he already received from a New York federal judge this year for convictions on charges that he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans. Different accusers testified at that trial.
Jane first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had tagged along to Kelly’s Chicago recording studio with her aunt de ella, a professional singer working with Kelly. Soon after that meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly was going to be her godfather.
Prosecutors have said Kelly shot the video of Jane in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home between 1998 and 2000, when she was as young as 13. In it, the girl is heard calling the man “daddy.” Federal prosecutors say that she and Kelly had sex hundreds of times over the years in his homes, recording studios and tour buses.
Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, knew a conviction in 2008 would effectively end his life as he knew it, and so prosecutors say he conspired to fix that trial.
According to prosecutors, Kelly told the parents and Jane to leave Chicago, paying for them to travel to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. When they returned, prosecutors say Kelly sought to isolate Jane, moving her around to different hotels. When called before a state grand jury looking into the video, Jane, her father and mother denied it was her in it.
Tears streamed down his face on June 13, 2008, when he was acquired on all counts of child pornography. Some of the jurors told reporters after the trial that they weren’t convinced that the female in the video was who the state prosecutors said she was.
Before the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a duffle bag full of sex tapes everywhere he went for years, but some tapes later went missing, according to court filings. In the 2000s, bootleg copies of some videos appeared on street corners throughout the US
In the early 2000s, the aunt showed the parents a copy of a video she said depicted their daughter having sex with Kelly. When they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You’re with me or against me,” a government filing says.
The parents took it as a threat.
Kelly, who has denied any wrongdoing, has been trailed for decades by complaints and allegations about his sexual behavior. The scrutiny intensified after the .MeToo era and the 2019 six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Kelly also faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to testify.
Prosecutors told jurors that the evidence includes at least three videos showing Kelly having sex with underage girls.
Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also have denied wrongdoing.