The latest witness during the R. Kelly trial, identified as Stephanie, gave an explosive testimony on Thursday (Aug. 26). She recounted a 1999 dinner at Houston’s in Chicago where Kelly compared himself to fellow musical artist, Jerry Lee Lewis, who married a 13-year-old when he was 22. “Look at Jerry Lee Lewis,” Kelly said. “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’ wife Myrna (who also happened to be his cousin, once removed) later divorced him, citing “every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable.”
Stephanie, who was 16 the first time she encountered a 31-year-old Kelly, says his comment about Lewis came after he mentioned liking young girls “out of the blue.” Rap duo Boo & Gotti were also in attendance at the dinner, and Stephanie says she was not allowed to speak to them because of Kelly’s rules.
Kelly first set eyes on Stephanie at Chicago’s Rock N Roll McDonald’s in 1998. She was there on a “double-date” with her boyfriend and another couple. While collecting her food from the counter alone, she says she was approached by an associate of Kelly who asked her age, whether she knew who R. Kelly was, and gestured to the singer who was sitting at a table nearby. Then, Stephanie says the man gave her a slip of paper with Kelly’s number on it; after consulting with her friends, she decided to throw it in the trash.
But through an unfortunate twist of fate, Stephanie and Kelly met again a year later, when the then 17-year-old worked as a barista at a hotel coffee shop. During her shift, a friend alerted her that Kelly would be at the Nike store around the corner for an event. On the stand, Stephanie explained that her close friend Kathryn was an aspiring singer, and she thought connecting Kathryn with Kelly could be her big break. She made her way up to Kelly and the two spoke as he walked to his car. After inviting her into the vehicle to continue their conversation, she said they sat alone, and after Stephanie mentioned Kathryn, Kelly made advances.
“He said he likes to cuddle and if I’d be OK with that,” said Stephanie. A week or two later, she says they met up at his studio and the two had sex. Stephanie explained that at the time of her sexual encounter, she was “very vulnerable” and had been subject to sexual abuse in the past by family members and former bosses. Stephanie continued seeing Kelly for six months, a point that defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker used to discredit her account.
Becker questioned why Stephanie chose to answer Kelly’s phone calls, why she continued seeing him and following his orders, and furthermore, why she flew to Orlando to see Kelly. On that trip to Orlando (booked and paid for through Kelly), Stephanie says she sat in a rental home for days, waiting for Kelly, who didn’t arrive until her last night in town. Once he did show up, Stephanie says Kelly drove them in a sports car to a studio and said he wanted to record her giving him oral sex. She says she felt “humiliated” and cried on the way back to the vacation rental. As she cried, “he really didn’t know how to deal with that,” Stephanie explained.
Stephanie said there were two sides of Kelly. Sometimes he could be “jovial” and “charming” while at other times, the singer “could put the fear of God in [her] very quickly.” She testified that Kelly was controlling and recounted moments highlighting his short fuse. On one occasion, Stephanie says she noticed the absence of one of Kelly’s security guards who often accompanied them and mentioned it to Kelly. Stephanie explained that Kelly then snapped, exclaiming, “What the f–k did you just stay to me?” and warned her to never mention another man to him again. She described herself as having been “terrified.” Although she noted sexual and verbal abuse, Stephanie said Kelly was never physically violent.
Stephanie says Kelly often recorded their sexual encounters and “orchestrated” the sounds she would make during sex. According to her accounts, Kelly would instruct her to get into a position while naked and stay that way until he came back into the room. Sometimes, hours passed and with no sign of him. “I’d be completely naked with my butt in the air waiting for him,” she said. If she shifted out of the position upon his return, Stephanie says he would become angry.
Another time, Stephanie says she and Kelly were in an SUV with his associates, and he asked her to give him oral sex. “It was really disgusting because he just played basketball for an hour,” Stephanie said. She says she reluctantly obliged, and tried to do so quietly, to avoid attracting attention. He then told her to moan, “he wanted the people in the car to know,” she said.
Stephanie recalled at least three times when she tried to persuade Kelly to give her the sex tapes and suggested that they could even burn them together. While he never completely shut down the idea, eventually Stephanie says she knew it would never happen. That was the end of her communication with Kelly, and the last time she saw him in person until this testimony, 22 years later. “I just didn’t want to be abused anymore,” Stephanie, who is now 39, said as she wept. “He humiliated me, he degraded me, he scared me. I’ll never forget the way he treated me.”
Kelly was arrested more than two years ago and has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include racketeering, sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping and bribery. If convicted on all counts, he faces 10 years to life in prison.
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