The woman had been testifying for more than four hours Thursday about her clandestine sexual relationship with R&B superstar R. Kelly as an impressionable young teenager when she was asked about one of the central mysteries in the case.
Why, after two decades of silence, did she finally decide to come forward and speak out?
There was a lengthy, silent pause in the Chicago federal courtroom. The woman, testifying under the pseudonym “Jane” looked down, pursed her lips and began to fidget nervously in her chair.
“I became exhausted with living with his lies,” Jane said finally.
The response punctuated a stunning day on the stand for Jane, now 37, the star witness in Kelly’s child pornography trial unfolding at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, where the now-disgraced singer and two former associates stand accused of conspiring to cover up years of Kelly’s sexual misconduct.
In taking the stand, Jane was telling her story publicly for the first time after refusing to cooperate years ago with investigators who were looking into a sex tape Kelly made with her in the late 1990s.
R. Kelly lawyer to cross-examine woman who testified she was teen on infamous sex video. Read more here >>>
Jane’s lack of cooperation left a glaring gap in Kelly’s 2008 trial in Cook County, where jurors said they simply could not agree about whether the girl on the pornographic tape was actually her, as prosecutors alleged. In the years that followed, while Kelly’s career soared and then tanked amid repeated accusations of other sexual misconduct, Jane and her parents remained stalwartly silent.
That all changed on Thursday. Dressed in a white blazer with her hair in long braids, Jane took the jury through a harrowing tale of alleged grooming, sexual abuse and cover-up, beginning when she first had sexual contact with Kelly at just 14.
She remained composed for much of her time on the stand, testifying in a soft but matter-of-fact tone about how she came into Kelly’s orbit and how their mutual love of music and basketball sparked a friendship despite the age gap.
But Jane’s voice grew quieter and began to break as she was asked to describe sexual encounters that Kelly recorded, including the now-infamous tape at the center of Kelly’s 2008 trial.
One of the videos, which are expected to be played for jurors, showed Jane and Kelly having oral sex in the living room of his Lakeview home, she said. He could be seen giving her Champagne and telling her to refer to her genitalia as 14 years old, she said. Then he urinated on her, she said in a voice almost too soft to hear, dabbing tears from her eyes.
On another video from about the same time, Jane testified, filmed in the wood-paneled Jacuzzi room in the basement of Kelly’s home in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Kelly appeared to hand her money before they have sex.
When a prosecutor asked why he gave her money, Jane started to cry audibly, saying after a long pause: “Because if anybody saw the tape or if it was released for some reason, he wanted it to appear as if I was a prostitute.”
As she said it, Jane looked sadly down at the table in front of her. Seated at the defense table across the courtroom, Kelly shook his head.
Their sex acts escalated to intercourse when she was 15, she said. Asked how she knew her exact age, Jane calmly responded, “Because that’s when I lost my virginity.”
After that, they had sex “innumerable times,” sometimes along with other teenage girls whom Jane recruited at Kelly’s request, she said. The encounters took place in Kelly’s home on West George Street, at his Near West Side recording studio, on tour buses and in hotels in Chicago and elsewhere, she said.
Two of the other minor victims are also expected to testify against Kelly later in the trial.
To illustrate how young she looked at the time of the encounters, prosecutors had Jane identify two photos of herself from her childhood. The first, taken when she was a sophomore in high school, showed her on one knee holding a basketball, smiling. The other was a headshot from when she was in a music group at 13 — around the time she said she first met Kelly.
Kelly, 55, is charged with 13 counts of production of child pornography, conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Some of the counts carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years behind bars if convicted, while others have ranges of five to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors are also seeking a personal money forfeiture of $1.5 million from Kelly.
Also on trial are Kelly’s former business manager, Derrel McDavid, and another associate, Milton “June” Brown, who, according to the indictment, schemed to buy back incriminating sex tapes that had been taken from Kelly’s collection and hide years of alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.
Regardless of the outcome, Kelly is still facing decades in prison. In June, he was sentenced to 30 years on federal racketeering charges brought in New York. He is appealing both the jury’s verdict and the sentence in that case.
In opening statements Wednesday, prosecutors painted Kelly as a serial predator, who had sexual contact with underage girls hundreds of times over the years. Five women including “Pinky” and “Jane” are expected to testify over the course of the trial that Kelly sexually abused them when they were teenagers.
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said prosecutors’ case hinges on the testimony of liars, extortionists (and) people who engaged in the business of trafficking pornography.”
Bonjean will have the opportunity to cross-examine Jane on Friday.
Jane told the jury Thursday that when Chicago police first began investigating her relationship with Kelly in 2000, she denied it because he’d told her he’d be ruined if it came out.
“That was something I would take to my grave,” she said, adding that Kelly told her she “did a good job answering their questions.”
Things escalated in early 2002, however, when her aunt, Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, told her “there was a sex tape leaked” depicting Jane and Kelly and that it was going to go public. She said Kelly continued to “stress how important it was to continue to deny it.”
A short time later, Kelly met with Jane and her parents to tell them the truth about their relationship and to apologize and try to keep them on his side, she said. “I just remember my dad storming out,” Jane testified. “He was saying, ‘I can’t help you, I can’t help you.’ … He was hysterical.”
Jane said Kelly decided to sent them to the Bahamas and Cancun so they would not be “accessible” to police and the media.
“There was a lot of negative attention happening around the videotape and Robert wanted us to leave the country to pretty much clear our heads and figure out approaches going forward,” Jane testified.
Jane testified that when she got back from the trip several weeks later, Kelly and his associates, including his high-powered Chicago legal team, amped up the pressure to hide any evidence of their illegal relationship.
In one of the videos, Jane is wearing a distinctive cross necklace, she said — the same one she was wearing in her passport photo at the time. Kelly’s lawyers insisted that she turn over both the necklace and the passport to them, she testified.
Also, Kelly was concerned about a tattoo of a heart with Kelly’s name on it that she got when she was out of the country with her parents. When she showed it to Kelly, he said it would be a problem: “You can’t have a tattoo like that with everything going on,” he said, according to her testimony.
Kelly arranged for her to have the tattoo shaded with a different design to obscure his name, she testified. And it was Brown who drove her to the tattoo artist’s house, according to Jane.
In April 2002, when Jane was summoned to testify before a Cook County grand jury, Kelly coached her on how to act and what to say, emphasizing how important it was to remain loyal to him. She said he repeatedly told her “how strong and stern I had to be in denying our relationship and the sex tape.”
Jane lied to grand jurors, telling them she was not involved with Kelly sexually and they had not made any videos. She also was shown images of herself from the video, and denied that they were her.
When prosecutors asked why she lied under oath, she sighed heavily. She took a long pause. When she began to speak, her voice was shaking.
“Because I was afraid to expose Robert,” she said. “… I also did not want that person to be me. I was ashamed.”
Jane acknowledged that in exchange for her testimony at the federal trial, she has been granted immunity from prosecution for perjury at the state grand jury.
While Kelly was awaiting trial on the Cook County charges, Jane said she moved into his mansion in south suburban Olympia Fields. He wanted her to be closer to him — “under his wing,” Jane said.
It was during that period that he became abusive, spanking her and hitting her, she said – particularly when she would try to leave.
“To leave or even to stay, both seemed difficult,” she said.
She ultimately moved out when she was 23 or 24, but Kelly continued to help her pay her rent and gave her a car so she could get to work, according to her testimony. Once, in 2014, a check he gave her had the word “settlement” written on it – even though there was never any settlement between the two, she said.
Jane had met Kelly nearly two decades before that, when she was just a star-struck kid, she said. She was thrilled when he attended a performance of her music group and gave her good feedback.
“It made me feel happy that such a successful person was saying I was gifted, so I was excited,” she said.
She began to visit Kelly’s studio regularly when she was 12 or 13, along with Edwards, her aunt, who was a protegee of Kelly’s.
Edwards advised her she should ask Kelly to be her godfather, she testified.
“(She said) I should sit on his lap and rub his head and ask him to play that role in my life,” Jane testified. She did, and Kelly “chuckled a bit, and said yes.”
After that, their relationship took a sexual turn, Jane said. She would have long phone conversations with him that eventually turned explicit, she said. She was 13 years old.
Kelly also gave her alcohol for the first time when she was 14, and she began drinking heavily.
“It would help me loosen up, kind of take me away from the moment,” she testified.
For most of her testimony, Jane remained calm on the witness stand, keeping her gaze on the prosecutor asking her questions, pausing at times to sweep her braids off her shoulder or wipe at her eyelashes.
Prosecutors earlier called to the witness stand Matthew Hulsizer, who in 2001 purchased a big house in Lakeview: a converted church with a swimming pool and basketball court and a barbershop. The previous owner, he came to find out, was R. Kelly.
After moved in, Hulsizer said he found out that a smoke detector in at least one of the bedrooms was not in fact a smoke detector at all — it concealed a small hidden video camera. And in order to leave the bedroom, you had to press a button, he said, a feature he removed since he thought it was a safety hazard.
In 2002, police evidence technicians came through to take photos, including pictures of the wood-paneled room depicted on the tape involving Jane.
Jurors were shown some of the photos during Hulsizer’s testimony, including the basketball court that doubled as an homage to Kelly’s success, with a large cartoon mural painted on one wall depicting the Looney Tunes characters from the movie “Space Jam.”
The cartoon included a likeness of Kelly on the court in red uniform and sunglasses, according to photos presented by the government, playing with the Tasmanian Devil. The cartoon scoreboard showed he was winning by two points with one second left on the clock. Some in the crowd of cartoon characters, which included Tweety Bird and Marvin the Martian, were holding up signs.
The “Colorado Room” looked like the interior of a log cabin with faux wood walls and an accent wall that appeared to be fake stone. A large hot tub dominated the room, also ensconced in fake wood paneling.
Earlier Thursday, retired Chicago police detective Daniel Everett reiterated that when he spoke to “Jane” and her parents in 2000 they denied that the girl had any kind of inappropriate relationship with Kelly.
A little more than a year later, he got a tape from then-Chicago Sun-Times journalist Jim DeRogatis and recognized “Jane” on the footage. That video became the center of Kelly’s Cook County court case 20 years ago.
Defense attorneys hit hard on chain-of-custody issues surrounding the tape. Everett noted that he has recently seen a copy of the footage and the content is the same, but he does not know where the original VHS tape is.
On cross-examination from Bonjean, Everett noted that he also interviewed a friend of Jane’s in 2002. That person is expected to testify later at trial under the pseudonym “Pinky.”
There is no indication in Everett’s reports that underage Pinky told him she had sexual contact with Kelly, Everett testified. And while there were concerns that a videotape depicted images of Pinky being abused, when Everett showed her and her mother stills from the tape, they denied it any involvement, he testified.