Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday (Aug 29) at R Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago after presenting two weeks of testimony, including from four Kelly accusers, in their bid to prove the singer enticed underage girls for sex, produced child pornography and successfully rigged his 2008 state trial.
Among the last prosecution witnesses was a 42-year-old woman who went by the pseudonym “Nia”. Taking the stand Tuesday morning, she was the fourth and final accuser to testify at the trial in Kelly’s hometown. A fifth accuser, who prosecutors had said during openings would testify, never did. They didn’t explain why.
Through her testimony, Nia painted a picture of Kelly as a master manipulator who reeled in star-stuck fans, like her, to sexually abuse them and then discarded them.
The highlight of prosecutors’ case came two weeks ago with the testimony of a 37-year-old woman who used the pseudonym “Jane”. She described Kelly sexually abusing her hundreds of times starting in 1998 when she was 14 and Kelly was around 30.
Jane’s testimony is vital to the charge accusing Kelly of fixing his 2008 child pornography trial, at which he was acquitted. She testified that Kelly and his associates threatened and paid off her and her parents to lie to a grand jury before that trial.
Legal teams for Kelly and two co-defendants now get their chance to attack the government’s case. Judge Harry Leinenweber told jurors they would have Wednesday off, then return for the first defence witnesses on Thursday. Closing arguments are expected to happen in the middle of next week.
A New York federal judge sentenced Kelly in June to 30 years in prison for convictions on racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
Kelly gave Nia, an aspiring actress and model, his telephone number after the then-15 year-old asked him for an autograph at an Atlanta mall in 1996, she testified. She said Kelly knew her age when he invited her to a concert in Minnesota, bought her plane ticket and sent a limousine with an all-red interior to pick her up.
On the way to the airport, Nia stopped to buy a red rose for Kelly, which she placed in her hotel room. When Kelly came to her room, he kissed her, then told her to undress and sit next to him on the bed. She said she was uncomfortable but did as he said. After touching her and himself, he quickly left, she said.
“I never got the chance to give him the rose,” Nia told jurors.
Nia spoke calmly and clearly as Kelly, wearing in a dark blue suit and black face mask, sat around 25 ft (7.6 m) in front of her and looked directly at her. When Jane testified earlier in the trial, he often kept his eyes down.
Nia said that for weeks after meeting Kelly, he promptly answered all her calls. But before long, he never answered them. When she saw him years later at a video shoot, she said she was hurt when he didn’t appear to recognise or acknowledge her.
She ended up suing Kelly in the early 2000s, alleging sexual abuse. Kelly quickly settled, paying her US$500,000 (S$698,000).
Kelly’s 2008 state trial revolved around a video prosecutors said showed him sexually abusing Jane. She did not testify at that trial, but she told jurors at the current trial that she was the child in the video and Kelly was the adult man. Jurors at the ongoing trial viewed excerpts of that video and two others.
Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse began circulating publicly in the 1990s. Widespread outrage didn’t emerge until after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 docuseries Surviving R Kelly.
Kelly associates Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown are co-defendants at the Chicago trial. McDavid, a longtime Kelly business manager, is accused of helping Kelly rig the 2008 trial. Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they have denied wrongdoing.