R. Kelly trial: Prosecutors rest case after multiple women testify about alleged abuse as minors

Kelly’s trial has featured testimony from four women who allege they were sexually abused by the singer as minors.

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R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center for a hearing in a child support case on March 6, 2019 in Chicago.

R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center for a hearing in a child support case on March 6, 2019 in Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Federal prosecutors in Chicago rested their case Tuesday against R&B singer R. Kelly, who they say filmed his sexual abuse of an underage girl in the 1990s and thwarted attempts to prosecute him in the 2000s.

Jurors heard from more than 20 government witnesses over two weeks, including four women who said they were sexually abused as minors by the R&B superstar decades ago, when Kelly was at the peak of his Grammy-award winning career.

The jury watched some witnesses break down on the stand and saw others spar with defense attorneys. In a particularly somber moment, the jurors viewed 17 video clips of Kelly’s alleged graphic sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl.

But Kelly’s trial is not over. Rather, it is about to move into a new phase. Defense attorneys for Kelly and his co-defendants are expected to argue Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber should throw out some or all of the charges in the case. It’s a routine request made by defense attorneys — and one that is rarely granted.

Then, the defense attorneys are expected to begin calling their own witnesses to the stand Thursday, as they continue to try to undermine the prosecutors’ evidence. The case appears on track for closing arguments and jury deliberations next week.

R. Kelly Chicago Trial

Full coverage of R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago:

The charges against Kelly in this latest trial allege child pornography, obstruction of justice and the enticement of minors into criminal sexual activity. In all, the case involves five alleged victims, four videos, 13 counts and 24 years of alleged conduct starting in 1996.

Also on trial are Kelly’s former business manager, Derrel McDavid, and a former assistant, Milton “June” Brown.

The most compelling testimony so far came from a woman known to jurors as “Jane.” In February 2002, a videotape allegedly depicting Kelly’s abuse of Jane was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times. The newspaper turned it over to police, and that led to a state-court child pornography prosecution of Kelly.

Jane declined to testify when that case went to trial in 2008, and Kelly was acquitted.

But prosecutors revealed in 2019 that Jane had decided to cooperate against Kelly. She took the stand earlier this month in Kelly’s new trial. Now 37, Jane said the singer began to sexually abuse her when she was around 14 and Kelly was in his 30s. She confirmed that three videos at issue in the current case depict her abuse.

Jurors viewed 17 clips from the three videos. Though their monitors were blocked from public view, the audio could still be heard in the courtroom, including a female voice repeatedly referring to her “14-year-old” body.

As the trial progressed, jurors heard from three women who also testified about sexual encounters involving Kelly and Jane when Jane was underage.

One woman was Lisa Van Allen, a former girlfriend and longtime accuser of Kelly’s who appeared in the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.” She testified along with two others — Charles Freeman and Keith Murrell — about attempts to track down videos of Kelly and Jane amid Kelly’s child-pornography prosecution in the 2000s.

All three testified under immunity deals.

Van Allen said she met Kelly at age 18 and began a sexual relationship with him. In 1998, she said she had a three-way sexual encounter with Kelly and Jane, who Kelly insisted was his 16-year-old neighbor. Jane turned 14 in 1998.

Later, in 2000, Van Allen said she took a VHS tape from Kelly that featured three sex scenes. Two allegedly depicted Kelly and Jane, while the third featured Kelly, Jane and Van Allen. She said she sent the tape to Murrell, a friend of hers, because she didn’t want it in her possession. She said she learned in 2007 that he still had it — and that it could be for sale.

Van Allen said she then reached out to Kelly, who promised her $250,000 to spend however she needed in order to get the tape back. Van Allen and Murrell were ultimately paid $100,000 each by Kelly and McDavid to return the tape, according to charges in the case.

Freeman testified that Kelly reached out to him in 2001 and asked him to recover some tapes that he’d lost. Freeman said he wound up talking to McDavid and a private investigator, Jack Palladino, and he said he demanded $1 million to recover a “performance tape.”

Freeman said he found the tape at a home near Atlanta and “immediately” made copies. His description of the video on the tape matched two of the videos described by Jane.

Though Freeman never got his $1 million, he said he collected more than a half-million dollars in mostly cash payments over the years from Kelly’s associates. He said he only handed his remaining copies of the tape over in 2019 to his attorney, who gave them to law enforcement, when he learned he could be facing charges.

Finally, jurors heard from three additional alleged victims in the case, referred to in court as “Pauline,” “Tracy” and “Nia.” A fifth accuser, “Brittany,” did not take the stand. Kelly is charged with enticing all four of those women, and Jane, into criminal sexual activity.

Pauline, now 37, said Jane introduced her to Kelly when they were 14. Pauline said she once caught Jane naked with Kelly and that the singer encouraged the girls to kiss and fondle each other. Pauline said she began having sexual intercourse with Kelly when she was 15 or 16.

Tracy, now 40, insisted she was 16 when she was introduced to Kelly in 1999 by her boss during an internship at Epic Records. She said her encounters with Kelly soon turned sexual, and she described an incident in which Kelly told her and Jane to perform oral sex on him.

Finally, prosecutors called Nia to the stand Tuesday. Nia testified that she met Kelly at age 15 in 1996. She said she saw Kelly at a mall in Atlanta, approached him seeking an autograph but also walked away with his phone number. She said they began to talk on the phone, and eventually she told Kelly her age.

Nia alleged that Kelly made arrangements for her to travel to see one of his concerts in Minneapolis. She said she brought a rose for him along on the trip. The morning after the concert, she said Kelly visited her in a hotel room, touched her breasts and began to masturbate. Once he finished, she said he left “in a rush.”

“When he left, the rose was still there,” Nia said.

Nia said she then spent the summer with family in Chicago. While in town, she said she and her cousins visited Kelly in his recording studio. During that visit, she said she slipped into a hallway to see Kelly, who made out with her and fondled her.

After that visit, she said Kelly stopped returning her calls.

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