Artist News Legal

R Kelly’s lawyer questions star witness as musician’s latest sex abuse trial continues

By | Published on Monday 22 August 2022

R Kelly

Jurors in the latest R Kelly trial were shown clips from three sexually explicit videos on Friday, each of which allegedly shows the musician sexually abusing a fourteen year old girl. The victim who seemingly appears in the videos, simply referred to as Jane, also continued to testify.

This is Kelly’s second criminal trial in a year in relation to the allegations of sexual abuse that had previously followed him around for decades. In a New York courtroom this time last year he was found guilty of running a criminal enterprise in order to access and abuse women and teenagers. In the current trial in Chicago he faces a different set of charges, with the alleged sexual abuse of Jane in the late 1990s key to the case against him.

One of the videos being presented as evidence in this trial was also at the centre of an earlier criminal investigation in the 2000s which saw Kelly in court in 2008. But on that occasion he was acquitted. Jane refused to cooperate with prosecutors back then, and Kelly’s defence team successfully threw doubt on whether it was, in fact, Kelly and the alleged victim, then aged fourteen, who appeared on the tape.

This time agreeing to testify, Jane says it is, in fact, her and Kelly who can be seen in the videos. Testifying in court last week, she explained how she met Kelly via family connections when she was in her early teens and he was in his late 20s. They bonded over their shared love of music and basketball, she said. But, after he had gained her trust, Kelly then then began sexually abusing the girl when she was just thirteen or fourteen, filming some of that abuse.

Asked by lawyers for the prosecution why, in the 2000s, she had denied having had sex with Kelly, and insisted that it was not her in the leaked video tape, she explained: “I was afraid to expose Robert – I also did not want that person to be me, I was ashamed”.

On Friday, Kelly’s defence lawyer Jennifer Bonjean got to question Jane. As expected, a key focus of the defence’s questioning was why Jane had changed her story, after many years of denying being sexually abused by Kelly. And, according to the Chicago Tribune, Bonjean began that line of questioning by referencing relatively recent correspondence between Jane and her client.

In her earlier testimony, Jane told the court that – during the 2000s criminal investigation – she was living with Kelly, and therefore he was able to control what she did and said. And even after she stopped living in Kelly’s Chicago mansion, when she was around 23 or 24, she was still financially dependent on the musician, who bought her a car and helped her with rent payments.

However, Bonjean argued, in more recent years it couldn’t be said that Kelly had any direct influence over Jane, and yet she maintained an amicable relationship with the star. The court saw text conversations between Jane and Kelly, one inviting the musician to a birthday celebration, two others exchanging happy new year greetings.

And after the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary aired in January 2019 – resulting in the various new criminal investigations – Jane initially sent Kelly a message of support. “I love you, don’t let the devil win”, she texted him, with Kelly responding: “Yeah, I was on a major breakdown but now I’m on a major buildup”.

At that point, Bonjean asked, Kelly “wasn’t trying to influence you to do anything – you were just commiserating”. Jane confirmed that was true.

The month after ‘Surviving R Kelly’ aired, Jane was contacted by prosecutors who informed her they were now in possession of additional videos that allegedly featured her and Kelly involved in sexual activities. She then texted the musician stating: “You need to call me right away or I’m making decisions on my own”.

Bonjean asked Jane whether that message was an implied threat basically demanding Kelly pay her some money otherwise she would speak to the state attorney’s officials. Jane denied that was her intent, adding: “The decision I was going to make was to cooperate with the authorities because I no longer wanted to carry his lies”.

Actually, Jane didn’t initially cooperate with the authorities, continuing to decline to answer their questions. And that initial decision not to cooperate was Jane’s own decision, she confirmed, because she was not at that point under any pressure from Kelly. However, she subsequently decided it was now time to cooperate. Which brought Bonjean back to that key focus of the defence: why did Jane ultimately decide to cooperate with the authorities and change her story?

Obviously keen to damage the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness, the defence lawyer suggested that the change in heart came about when Jane learned that she might qualify for restitution, which is to say she could benefit financially if Kelly was convicted. The defence objected to that suggestion, while Jane insisted that she had not yet decided whether to seek restitution if Kelly is found guilty.

When it came to showing the sexually explicit video clips, the prosecution’s legal reps asked that media and spectators be removed from the courtroom given that the tapes contain footage of the sexual abuse of a child. However, the judge ruled that – providing screens were placed in front of the jury, so that no one else could see either the monitors on which the videos were played or how the jurors reacted – then it wasn’t necessary for other people to actually leave the courtroom.

As a result, those other people could hear the audio on the tapes, although an audio feed that has allowed people to follow the trial elsewhere in the courthouse was cut while the videos were played. As described by Jane in her earlier testimony, Kelly can be heard giving her instructions on the videos, while she can be heard referring to her “fourteen year old genitals” on multiple occasions.

The case continues.