‘Intimidating’ R Kelly put ‘fear of God in me’, third accuser says

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A woman told a New York court on Thursday of a relationship she had with R Kelly in which he would film their sexual interactions and yell at her for disobeying his commands.

The woman, introduced to the jury only as “Stephanie”, told the court of a months-long relationship she had with the R&B singer in 1999, when she was 17 and he was 32.

Stephanie, now 39, is the third accuser to testify in the singer’s sex trafficking trial. Prosecutors have accused Kelly of using his fame to abuse women and young women over decades. He is charged with racketeering and violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of women or girls for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery. Kelly, 54, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Like the other accusers who have testified so far, Stephanie described being told to call Kelly “Daddy” and ordered not to speak to other men when with him. She said there were two sides to Kelly: one “nice, charming [and] jovial” and the other “controlling and intimidating” who would yell when he was angry. “He would raise his voice at me and could put the fear of God in me very quickly,” she said.

She told prosecutors that the time she first met Kelly was “the hardest time of my life” and that she had experienced sexual trauma and abuse from family members, a former boss and other men.

Stephanie told the jury of first encountering Kelly when she was 16 at a McDonald’s in Chicago with friends. An employee of Kelly had approached her and asked her whether she knew Kelly, gesturing to the singer, who was sitting near the cash register, she said. The employee had given her a piece of paper with Kelly’s phone number, which, Stephanie said, she had thrown away.

A year later, when Stephanie was 17 and working at a hotel in Chicago, a friend had informed her that Kelly was having an event at a Nike store that was close to where she was working. Stephanie said she had gone to the store in hopes of meeting Kelly to tell him about her friend who was an aspiring singer. She said she had met Kelly as he was leaving the store, and he had invited her to talk with him in his car. There, she said, he had given her his phone number, and they soon established a relationship.

Early on, Stephanie said, Kelly asked her age. When she told Kelly that was 17, to her surprise, “he said it was fine”, she said.

She recalled going to a restaurant with Kelly and two of his friends and said she was instructed not to talk to the men during the meal. She said Kelly mused to his friends about why it was a “big deal” to people that he “liked young girls”. Stephanie said she remembered Kelly comparing himself to the singer Jerry Lee Lewis, who married a 13-year-old cousin.

“I’m a genius. We should be able to do what we want,” Kelly said, according to Stephanie.

In another instance, she said, Kelly had coerced her to perform oral sex on him in the backseat of a car. Two people had been sitting in the front, she said, and while she was trying to keep quiet, he told her to make noises. “Obviously he wanted the other people in the car to know,” she said.

Towards the end of their relationship, the court heard, Kelly had flown Stephanie and a friend out to Orlando and had them stay in what appeared to be a rental house. The two had been left alone for days until Kelly appeared toward the end of their trip, she said. Kelly, she said, had driven her to a recording studio in Orlando, where he filmed her performing oral sex on him. She said she had felt “humiliated” and cried in the car on the way back to the house.

Stephanie said she had asked Kelly to destroy tapes of them having sexual interactions or give them to her, but Kelly refused.

Through questioning during cross-examination, Kelly’s defense team attempted to emphasize to the jury that Stephanie’s interactions with Kelly had been consensual.

“You chose to pick up every time he called,” Nicole Blank Becker, one of Kelly’s defense lawyers, told the witness. “You could have chosen to get up and leave [when you were in the studio] … You consented to having sexual relations with him every time.”

“I felt I didn’t have a choice,” Stephanie said.

She became emotional when prosecutors asked why she had not forgotten about her encounters with Kelly, though her experience had taken place over 20 years ago.

“It was the lowest time in my life. I have never been treated like that before or since,” she said, crying. “I’ll never forget the way he treated me.”

The trial continues.

  • Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organizations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html

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