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NEW YORK ― A third Jane Doe, identified as Stephanie, testified Thursday that R. Kelly initiated a sexual relationship with her during the “toughest time of her life” when she was 17, in the federal trial against the singer.
Stephanie, now 39, said she met Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, when she was 16 at what’s referred to as the “Rock ’n’ Roll” McDonalds in Chicago during the summer of 1998. She was there on a double date with her boyfriend and two friends. Under direct examination, she told Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata that she was standing at the cash register by herself when one of Kelly’s assistants approached her.
In her testimony at the Brooklyn Federal Court Building, she said that he asked her age and if she knew who R. Kelly was. When she said yes, he pointed to him and she saw that the singer, who was 32 at the time, was staring at her.
“He gave me a phone number and said it was Robert Kelly’s phone number,” she told the courtroom. Stephanie returned to her friends and boyfriend at the time, and they all laughed when she told them what happened, she said. She then threw the piece of paper with his number away. “I didn’t intend to call him,” she said.
Stephanie testified that the following summer, she was working as a barista at a downtown Chicago hotel and heard about an event Kelly would be attending at the Nike store near her job. She decided to go to see if he remembered her and to ask if he’d listen to her friend sing.
In her testimony, she said that, as she arrived at the store, Kelly was walking out. She asked if he remembered her, and he said he did. She told him she wanted to ask him a question, and he told her to walk with him to his car. She sat in the passenger seat and asked about her friend singing for him.
“He said, yeah, that he thought he could arrange that, but he’d also like to get to know me and also he likes to cuddle and would I be OK with that?” Stephanie recalled. She said she agreed to it, and they began making plans to meet.
When asked by the prosecution what was going on in her life at the time, Stephanie said she had been experiencing hardships, including being sexually traumatized by family, her first boss and men on the street.
“It was the hardest time of my life,” she said. “I was very vulnerable.”
A week or so after meeting at the Nike store, she said, she took a bus to his studio, as they had previously discussed. After buzzing the intercom and being escorted up to the studio, she waited hours for Kelly to join her.
When he finally arrived, Stephanie said, he sat next to her, laid his head on her shoulder and said, “Sorry it took so long.” She said they talked for a bit and had sex that day.
Stephanie testified that during her first or second time at the studio, she told him that she was 17. Though she thought that meant the end of their relationship, she said he told her it was “fine.”
Kelly wanted her to call him “Daddy.” She said their relationship lasted about six months and she saw him six to eight times a month, mostly at the studio. She said that he “orchestrated” their encounters, instructing her to make certain sounds or stay in certain positions. There were times when he would tell her to undress and stay in a certain position “for hours” while she was “waiting there for him to come and have his way.”
She said it was “humiliating.”
In the Brooklyn trial, Kelly is facing federal charges of racketeering and violations of the Mann Act, which prohibits taking a minor across state lines for prostitution. He has denied the charges.
Stephanie told the courtroom that, starting early on in their relationship, while she was 17, Kelly would regularly film himself performing sexual acts on her, saying that the first time he brought up filming, he didn’t ask her but told her that he was picking her up to film.
“I was really scared,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”
During their relationship, she said he had two sides: one nice and charming and the other controlling and intimidating. She told Shihata that it was hard to determine what exactly triggered him.
“He’d raise his voice at me, and he could put the fear of God in me very quickly,” she testified.
At one point in their relationship, she said, he gave her $300 to go get an outfit in the likeness of actress Sharon Stone. He dropped her off to go shopping and said he’d pick her up when she was done. Stephanie finished early and decided to stand outside and have a cigarette while she waited for him. When he pulled up and saw her smoking, she said he got in her face and yelled at her to “don’t ever do that shit again, especially in front of me.” She said that she was “terrified.”
Stephanie said that she once went to the restaurant Houston’s for a meal with Kelly and two local rappers. She wasn’t allowed to speak to the rappers while they ate because Kelly didn’t allow her to speak to other men. During the meal, she said, he randomly started talking about why he should be able to date minors.
“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 and I’m a genius. We should be allowed to do whatever we want. Look at what we give the world.’” Lewis is a musician who married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown, in 1957. Brown later divorced Lewis, alleging that she had been “subject to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable.”
Stephanie also testified about an instance when the two were leaving one of his basketball games with two others in the car with them. He asked her to give him oral sex in the car, which she said was “disgusting” because he was sweaty from playing. She said she tried to do it quietly since others were in the vehicle. He told her to make noise, which caught the attention of the person in the passenger seat. She said she was “ashamed.”
Their relationship ended shortly after he paid for her and a friend to take a trip to Orlando, Florida, for Stephanie’s 18th birthday in October 1999. She said they stayed at a rental property, which they weren’t allowed to leave. They also didn’t have a car. Stephanie didn’t see him until their final day in Orlando. Kelly picked only Stephanie up in a sports car, took her to his studio and made her perform oral sex on him. She said she was “just humiliated” and that she didn’t want to be recorded.
She said she cried in the car on the way back to the rental, but he didn’t know how to deal with that.
“I felt used and humiliated and degraded,” she told the court. “I didn’t want to be abused anymore.”
She said she continued her relationship with him in hopes of retrieving and destroying the videos that Kelly recorded of the two having sex. In either November or December, she called him and asked if they could destroy them together, and he said she could come to the studio so they could discuss it. Stephanie testified that it was clear to her then that he didn’t intend to destroy the tapes.
“That was the last time I spoke to him,” she said.
Defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker questioned Stephanie during cross-examination. Becker painted the relationship as a normal adult relationship, although Stephanie was 17 and Kelly was 32 at the time.
“The majority of time it was you going to him, correct?” Becker asked, adding that Stephanie likely drove to see Kelly. Stephanie replied that she couldn’t drive to see Kelly at the time because she was not old enough to have a license.
Becker’s questions implied it was Stephanie’s fault that got into the position she was in with Kelly: “You had a choice to pick up every time he called, correct?” and “You were intimate because you wanted to be, no?”
Stephanie’s testimony on Day 7 of the trial ended on a somber note when Shihata, the prosecutor, reexamined the witness.
When Shihata asked why Stephanie would never forget the sexual abuse she says she endured at the hands of Kelly, she broke down crying. “Because that was the lowest time in my life. I’ve never been treated like that before or since. He humiliated me. He degraded me. He scared me. I will never forget the way he treated me.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
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