NEW YORK – R. Kelly’s sex-trafficking trial continued into Day 10 on Wednesday with more graphic testimony from a witness who says he forced her into sex acts, told her he’s a “legend” and that he likes a woman “who reminds him of a puppy, his daughter or his mom.”
The witness, who testified as “Faith,” is one of the six complaining witnesses whose allegations underlie the sex trafficking, racketeering and other charges Kelly faces at the trial in federal court in Brooklyn. So far, the jury has heard testimony from or about five of those women.
On Tuesday, Faith told the jury that she wasn’t a fan of Kelly’s but he enticed her to join him on the road after she met him at a concert in Texas.
On Wednesday, under direct questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata, Faith described meetings with Kelly in Texas, Los Angeles and New York during which she was reluctant to engage in sex acts, he forced her anyway, and once showed her a gun. She testified he had videos of himself having sex with other women.
In Los Angeles, she said, she told him she didn’t want to have sex. He put a pillow on the floor and demanded oral sex, she said. “He grabbed the back of my neck forward,” she said, forcing her to perform the sex act. He told her that he wanted her to greet him with excitement when he entered a room, and that she failed to comply.
They continued to communicate through phone calls, texting and FaceTime. In February 2018, they met at a New York City hotel. Why did she go? “Let me see how it’s going to go one more time,” Faith testified.
She said she was left alone in a hotel suite for a long time. Why didn’t she leave? It was part of Kelly’s rules, Faith said. “Don’t leave anywhere without his permission,” she told the jury.
When he arrived, she resisted when he tried to have sex with her, she said, so he began masturbating to videos on his iPad of himself with other women. Faith said Kelly told her she needed to be more like the women in the videos.
Eventually, Faith said, she concluded “I don’t want to be a part of this.” When Kelly’s assistant summoned him for a meeting, she said he patted her on the shoulder as he left and told her she had a lot to learn. She was offended and said Kelly told her, “I’m a (expletive) legend.”
She left the next day and flew home to Texas. She said she sent him an apology text. “I didn’t hate him,” Faith said. “I just hoped he didn’t have any hard feelings toward me.”
Later, when she discovered bumps in her mouth, she went to a doctor and was told she had herpes. She tried to contact Kelly; he didn’t respond, she said. “He totally cut off communication with me.” She contacted a lawyer and filed a police report with the Dallas police.
Eventually, she said, Kelly called and told her “you still have a friend in me,” a call recorded by her lawyer. But when she asked him about the herpes, she said he told her, “If he had something, we weren’t going to discuss it over the phone.”
Later, after she appeared in the “Surviving R. Kelly” Lifetime series, Faith said she was contacted by a woman who worked with Kelly, who told her the star planned to publish nude photos of the witness if she continued to speak publicly. Faith testified the photos were later posted to a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies.”
On cross-examination by one of Kelly’s lawyers, Deveraux Cannick, Faith acknowledged she had appeared on “a few” talk shows and on social media programs but did not get paid for them. She said she received $1,000 for a picture of herself, her sister and Kelly that was used in “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Kelly, 54, is facing multiple sex-trafficking and racketeering charges dating back decades and involving six complaining witnesses, including the late singer Aaliyah, called Jane Doe No. 1 by prosecutors.
The star has repeatedly denied accusations that he preyed on women during a 30-year career highlighted by his 1996 smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly.” His lawyers have portrayed his accusers as groupies who are lying about their relationships with him.
What’s happened in the R. Kelly trial so far?
The government accuses Kelly of leading “a criminal enterprise” of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped Kelly to recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography, and to cross state lines for that purpose.
Jerhonda Johnson Pace, the first Kelly accuser to testify at the trial (who has previously shared her story publicly), said she had sex with the singer when she was 16, although she initially told him she was 19, which is over the age of consent.
Pace testified she had to be granted permission by the singer to use the bathroom and that Kelly sometimes recorded their frequent sex sessions and would later show the recordings to her to point out where she could use “improvement.” She said she “ended up contracting herpes” while she was with Kelly in 2009.
The second accuser, who called herself “Jane” on the stand, testified last week that Kelly made his girlfriends practice answering questions about him, in an effort to better defend him during his volatile CBS interview with Gayle King.
The witness said when she first met Kelly, he pressured her for sex before an audition. She said she eventually moved in with him while still a junior in high school and testified Kelly chastised or punished her for various reasons during their time together, including forcing her to have sex with another man while Kelly recorded it on an iPad. She wept when she testified she contracted herpes after sex with Kelly. She said Kelly hadn’t disclosed he had a sexually transmitted disease.
The third complaining witness, who called herself “Stephanie” on the stand, said in 1999 she sought out Kelly to help a friend with her singing aspirations. She testified Kelly subjected her to a months-long abusive sexual relationship when she was 17, during which he frequently videotaped their sexual encounters.
His sexual demands and his frequent videotaping of her in humiliating positions left her “disgusted” and feeling “less than,” she told the jury, also describing a traumatic trip she took at his behest to Orlando.
Another complaining witness, Faith, said she was exposed to a sexually transmitted disease after meeting Kelly at a backstage after-party in 2017 when she was 19. She said the singer paid for her flights and hotel rooms to attend his concerts in cities where he demanded sex from her. When questioned by the prosecution, she said Kelly did not tell her he had herpes and did not wear condoms.
Kelly’s former assistant and tour manager, Demetrius Smith, testified under subpoena and immunity from prosecution that he helped facilitate Kelly’s illegal 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time.
Other witnesses have testified about uncharged crimes, including a male (“Louis”) who said Kelly performed oral sex on him in 2007 when he was a 17-year-old high school student, and a woman (“Addie”) who said Kelly raped her at age 17 following a performance in Miami in 1994.
Kelly’s primary care doctor, Kris McGrath, also testified under subpoena that he was the star’s doctor for 25 years until 2019. McGrath said he diagnosed Kelly with genital herpes, informed the star and told him to tell his sexual partners. He said he’d been prescribing Valtrex for Kelly since at least 2007, but could not say specifically when he concluded Kelly actually had herpes.
Kelly is also accused in the two-year-old indictment of knowingly infecting some victims with a sexually transmitted disease, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and producing child pornography.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit hotline.rainn.org/online and receive confidential support.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: R Kelly trial witness says he forced sex, called himself ‘a legend’