Trial Updates: R. Kelly Sex Trafficking Case

Posted at 10:04 AM, September 23, 2021 and last updated 7:25 PM, May 17, 2023


Day 22 | Sept. 23, 2021

Prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes has concluded her closing argument. She went for about 3 hours today for a total of about 6.5 hours over 2 days for her closing argument. Jurors have been asked to return at 1:45 for the defense’s closing argument.

Geddes concluded by saying that the government has called 45 witnesses and presented hundreds of exhibits, she said, ‘It is time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he has caused’ naming the Jane Does’, Aaliyah, Sonya, Stephanie, Jerhonda, Jane and Faith.

Day 21 | Sept. 22, 2021

In this illustration drawn from a video feed, R. Kelly, right, stands and responds to Judge Ann Donnelly’s question whether or not he has decided to take the stand in his own defense, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

Prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes spent nearly 3.5 hours walking jurors through the testimony of some of Robert Kelly’s alleged victims, arguing the crimes committed against them collectively add up to a racketeering conviction against the defendant.

Day 20 | Sept. 21, 2021

The defense called two more witnesses Tuesday to testify they had regular contact with Robert Kelly while the singer employed them and did not observe him mistreat his girlfriends, prevent them from leaving, or deprive them of food.

Accountant John Holder worked for the defendant from 2018 to 2019 and over a period of about 18 months, met with Kelly 9 hours a day, and spoke to him for hours at a time to discuss finances. Kelly was in debt to $12 million, which Holder said he reduced to $3 million by selling off some assets. Holder said Kelly’s live-in girlfriends had rooms on the second floor of the studio, and did not see them, but had a chance to observe them with Kelly when they came downstairs for meals Kelly ordered.

He also said he accompanied Kelly on several tours and handled the ‘back end’ of the show, collecting the deposit from the venue. He said he would give the cash to Kelly, who would place it in a backpack and draw from it – using the money to give to his girlfriends or pay for purchases they made.

On cross, the resident of Florida said he lived in a hotel while he worked for Kelly and agreed he was not privy to Kelly’s behavior before 2018. He said he billed Kelly at a rate of $175/p/hour and earned about 80 thousand over the course of his employment with the R & B star.

During her cross, the prosecutor displayed a drawing supposed to symbolize Kelly’s company – reflected as a red octopus with tentacles that represented various parts of his organization, and people who worked for him. The tentacles were labeled ‘security’ and were named after people like his tour manager. The cartoonish drawing drew an objection that the defense eventually withdrew.

Jeff Meeks, a studio engineer, said he saw Kelly daily during his employment from 2002 – 2010 and again from 2014 to 2019. Meeks said his work usually required him to remain in a studio, but there was a time when he worked the front desk and took I.D. cards from Kelly’s female guests. He said he made copies of the IDs and kept the copies on file, and did not observe minors among his female guests. He said he also worked as a runner for Kelly, who required him to run errands and bring food to his girlfriends. He testified he did not observe outside locks on the interior doors of the studio and did not hear banging on the doors by a girlfriend who wanted to leave.

On cross examination, Meeks agreed his career and studio credits were all linked to Kelly and did not see want to see him convicted.

The defense finished early in the afternoon – saving one more witness for Wednesday. Kelly’s attorney informed the judge that his client is not likely to testify but she said she would wait till Wednesday to make her inquiry.


Day 19 | Sept. 20

Defense attorneys for RKelly began their case by calling a fan who sought out Kelly to advance his own music career and a childhood friend who became a police officer and worked security for Kelly in the mid 90s and early 2000s.

Dhanai Ramanan who went by the stage name DA-NI (pronounced Dah-NIE) told the jury he has known Kelly for 15 to 16 years and collaborated with Kelly on several music projects, including his own never-released album. Ramanan said he accompanied Kelly on his tours and was present at the studio when he was recording. He was in the position to observe Kelly almost daily basis and did not ever see the singer abuse his girlfriends, lock them up, deprive them of food, or force them to follow rules. He conceded there were rules, but they were intended to be considerate of the creative process going on in the studio.

Day 18 | Sept. 18, 2021

  • Talent manager tearfully details being threatened by Kelly after allegations emerged against him in 2010.
  • Cheryl Mack: “He told me “Precious” was going to file a lawsuit and I needed to pick a team.” “Generally, in these situations people come up missing.”
  • Former employee also breaks down on stand while describing being verbally berated by defendant in 2015.
  • Mack testifies Kelly once docked her pay to $0 for 3 to 6 months.
  • On cross, Defense questions why someone with Mack’s experience and education would write a consequential letter at someone’s direction.
  • During cross, Mack tells court she feels faint and defense questioning is halted for several minutes.
  • Robert Kelly appears unusually animated during testimony of Cheryl Mack, making “shocked & incredulous motions
  • Forensic psychologist testifies as the Government’s last witness; Expert tells jury abusers use isolation, shame, surveillance, and secrecy to exert control over their victims. Only 20 percent of victims report to police.

Witness Cheryl Mack, a talent manager, tearfully detailed being threatened by Kelly after allegations emerged against him. Mack received a subpoena to be a witness — she did not want to testify. Mack, who has a degree in business in management, began working in talent managment in 1998-99.

In August 2005, in Miami, Mack was eating lunch with a client when a man approached them and asked who they were. The man asked Mack’s client if she could really sing. He brought Mack and the client to a table in the back to meet R. Kelly. Kelly thought the client’s voice was amazing and they exchanged contact information.

Mack collaborated with the client’s album but that was it. Mack sent some future clients to Kelly, however. Mack represented another singer, “Precious” (not her real name), an R&B hip-hop artist in Atlanta. Kelly agreed to work with Precious.

Mack also worked with an up-and-coming songwriter named “Vee” (also not her real name) in collaboration with Precious in 2009. Mack testified that Vee flew from Atlanta to Chicago to work with Precious. At one point, Precious suddenly stopped working with Kelly. In 2010, Kelly told Mack that Precious was going to file a lawsuit and that Mack needed to “pick a team.” Either Team Precious or Team Kelly. Mack felt threatened. She was frightened. Mack testified that, “In these situations people come up missing.”

Studio manager Tom Arnold drove Mack to Kelly’s lawyer’s office, where Attorney Jensen presented her with an affidavit and asked her to sign it.

The affidavit said:

Did I ever see Kelly give “Precious” alcohol?
Did I ever see Kelly and “Precious” having sex?

Mack told the judge that she couldn’t remember if she answered the questions or signed the affidavit. When Mack returned to Atlanta, she didn’t speak to Precious or Kelly. However, after some time, it was understood that the sexual harassment claim had been resolved.

Years later, Mack began working with Kelly again, and eventually became his executive assistant. She recalled witnessing an uncomfortable moment between Kelly and a singer named “Jane” (not her real name) in a dressing room. Mack quit on the spot when Kelly cursed her out at a McDonald’s in the presence of Jane, pounded on a table and demanded she apologize to Jane.

Mack admitted that while she was an employee, she wrote scripted apology letters on R. Kelly’s behalf. She also testified that Kelly once docked her pay to $0 for three to six months. Mack also told the prosecutor that Kelly’s female guests would stand when he entered a room.

During Mack’s testimony, R. Kelly appeared unusually animated, making shocked and incredulous motions. Mack also testified that she was not allowed to commingle with male coworkers, stating: “He didn’t allow any male female interactions for those working for him, no fraternizations.”

During testimony, Mack started to feel faint and needed to take a break.

Mack admitted that she once had a pending lawsuit against Kelly. She had also written a manuscript outline about Kelly prior to the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary. Mack admitted she exaggerated facts in the proposal in hopes of getting a book deal.

The next witness was Dawn Hughes, PhD — a clinical forensic psychologist. She is an expert in clinical and forensic psychology specializing in interpersonal violence and post-traumatic stress.

Day 17 | Sept. 15, 2021

Jurors deciding the fate of Robert Kelly viewed a number of videotapes Wednesday including one that the judge warned may be “somewhat upsetting.” None of the videotapes or recordings that the jurors viewed or heard were transmitted to the overflow room making it exceedingly frustrating for journalists trying to cover the trial.

After the prosecutor announced the recordings would be published to the jury only,the court went silent while everyone in the courtroom donned headsets to watch and listen to the videotapes. There were a number of recordings including a video and an audio recording purporting to show the defendant physically and verbally abusing and threatening unidentified women.

The recordings were played over the objections of the defense after the judge ruled they were admissible to show how the defendant maintained control over his alleged victims.

Prosecutors also introduced other videos, including a few which featured Kelly, a woman named Dominique, and a male witness by the name of Alex — who testified earlier this week that he met Kelly at one of his parties when he was 17 and eventually became his lover at the age of 20.

Alex testified that he participated in a number of threesomes that included the defendant. He went on to say that there were countless such sexual encounters and that they were recorded by Kelly on his iPad.

Government witness Ryan Chabot — a case agent for the Department of Homeland security — testified about items recovered from the searches of the defendant’s Trump Tower apartment and a storage unit Kelly had. Chabot introduced a number of letters recovered from search warrants. Prosecutors read excerpts from the letters written by some of his alleged victims. The portions read by the prosecutor ranged from the girls groveling and asking for forgiveness for disappointing or failing Kelly in some way.

Also among the items recovered in the searches were what appeared to be altered ID cards for Jerhonda Pace. The cards reflected a birthdate of April 19, 1990 — 3 years older than her actual birth year of 1993. Pace was the government’s first witness, testifying that she became sexually involved with the defendant at the age of 16. She described in graphic detail how the defendant allegedly trained her to sexually please him, taking her virginity and giving her herpes. Pace said the defendant knew she was 16 when they had sexual intercourse but he allegedly told her to pretend to be 19.

Day 16 | Sept. 14, 2021

Witness Nicholas Williams worked for the defendant in his music studio as an intern when he was 19 and had hopes of moving into a sound engineer position. As an employee of Kelly he said the most direct rule from Kelly was “no interaction with his female guests.”

Williams said he was tasked with manning the front desk and answering the phone. He said Kelly would often have female guests stay at the studio after a show. He noted that “they were all very young.”

If he received any messages from female guests that were staying in any of the studio’s bedrooms, he had to write down the message and take it directly to Kelly. Most of the messages he received were requests for food for the women.

“Any time I had to take food to them, they took the food, looked down and closed the door,” he said. There was no conversation. He said they “seemed sad.”

He testified that Kelly’s male visitors — actors, musicians, personal trainers — were free to move about the studio but his female guests were not.

A “blackout” order from Kelly meant none of the employees could go upstairs and the rooms were off-limits to everyone. During blackouts no one was permitted to move around upstairs in the studio except for Kelly and members of his inner circle.

Williams also described another code that he had for any impending visits from Kelly’s wife, who was usually escorted by a personal assistant.

The code word for Kelly’s wife was “important” and a visit from her required him to write “important” on a piece of paper and take it to Kelly as soon as he could. It meant that none of his female guests could be around.

Sparks flew when Williams attempted to to address Kelly personally: “I wanted to look him in the eye…,” he started to say before an objection was raised and lawyers huddled at sidebar.

When the sidebar broke up Williams asked the judge if he could “say something…” The judge stopped him and instructed him to simply answer the question.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Devereaux Cannick suggested Wiliams was a disgruntled employee who never got the opportunity to work as a sound engineer.

On cross, defense attorney Devereaux Cannick suggested that Williams was nothing but a disgruntled employee who had ambitions to become a sound engineer but never got past his $6 an hour job as a receptionist.

Williams conceded he wanted to be an engineer and left because he wasn’t given the opportunity, though on redirect he testified he found a career in live sound production.

Another former employee, Alesiette Mayweather, served as Kelly’s personal assistant for six months. She testified that part of her duties involved escorting Kelly’s girlfriends on shopping and various other excursions to get manicures or massages. She testified the services or transactions could not be handled by men. And should the girls encounter a man in an elevator, they had to turn their back toward the door.

Mayweather also sent frequent texts to her boss to let him know details of their whereabouts indicating where they were going and when they returned.

Prosecutors introduced a series of texts Mayweather sent to her friend in which she raised some concern over the detention of one of Kelly’s girlfriends who was kept in a room in the studio for at least 36 hours.

The judge ruled this morning on a motion to admit video and audio recordings of Kelly threatening his alleged victims.

Day 15 | Sept. 13, 2021

Court resumed with the direct testimony of Diana Copeland, former personal/executive assistant of R. Kelly, who worked for the singer off and on for 15 years.

She testified about feeling coerced into doing some bizarre things at his direction. She described one incident in 2019 which R. Kelly asked if she was “wired,” and being presented with a robe with the understanding that she had to take her clothes off and wear the robe to talk to him — so he could be sure she wasn’t wired.

Copeland described Kelly as being upset and was asked to write a letter in which she stated: “He has never been physically, verbally, or mentally abusive to anyone.” When asked if she was being truthful, she replied that she probably should have said, she “had never seen him be physically abusive… ”

Asked if she ever got into any verbal altercations with Kelly, Copeland said she acknowledged their exchanges could get heated — usually over fines. She acknowledged there were times when she cried or quit.

Copeland also described another letter she wrote at his bidding in which she confessed to stealing money from him and being contrite about it, acknowledging that he was a forgiving person, and gushed about how loving and giving he was; and had she simply asked him for the money, she wrote he would have given it to her. Copeland denied ever stealing money from Kelly.

On cross-examination by Defense Attorney Devereaux Cannick, Copeland said she was being truthful when she described R. Kelly as giving and loving.

Copeland said she returned to R. Kelly after leaving because she liked the job, and after a series of heated objections she acknowledged that “fines” are common in the music business. She also agreed that she left because she wasn’t “in sync” with Kelly’s new management team and that she returned to help Kelly locate “lost money.”

Copeland testified that the singer had no control over his bank account, didn’t know where his royalties were going, and didn’t even know his own social security number, remarking “it was a huge problem.” She was charged with making sure his household ran smoothly, which included his properties at Olympia Fields and Trump Tower.

Copeland agreed that some of the rules that his guests had to follow were made by his wife. Cannick likened the permission to leave rooms, etc. as being no different than the ones the government imposes on its witnesses, noting that she had to be escorted to the bathroom when she met with prosecutors.

Copeland also agreed that Kelly sponsored extravagant shopping trips for his girlfriends that included an escort, but she did not observe any instances in which he personally stopped them from leaving his home; and when they did, he paid for their travel.

A letter written by Copeland was read aloud. The letter stated:

“Dear Robert, this is the hardest letter to write… I have stolen money from you…I am truly disappointed in myself and ashamed…You are a forgiving person, giving and loving. I don’t feel deserving of your love. I will never betray you again, I love you.

However, when the prosecutor asked Copeland to clarify whether she’d ever stolen from the defendant, she denied ever stealing from R. Kelly.

Cannick also tried to get Copeland to confirm that “Daddy” is a term of endearment. He asked her about the lyrics to the song “Chocolate Factory,” in which Kelly refers to himself as “Daddy.”

Copeland said she was unable to recall the lyrics to the song. When asked why she had to knock before exiting the tour bus bathroom, she said it was because the door was located across from the bus’s microwave oven and that someone could be walking by the door with hot food or water.

Copeland testified that she never served Jane Doe #6 alcohol, nor did she ever sit outside the stall while Jane Doe #6 used the bathroom. She also testified that Kelly’s team implemented a “female only” Uber driver rule for safety reasons. Copeland also testified that she was never instructed to recruit women for Kelly and that she never heard anyone else instructed to do so.

Copeland admitted that she did things because Kelly asked her to do it as her boss.

Regarding R. Kelly’s literacy, Copeland testified that she communicated with him via text, that he often used talk to text, and before that feature existed, she helped him draft text messages.

A woman who prosecutors referred to as Angela testified that she inadvertently walked in on Robert Kelly in the midst of a sex act with Aaliyah, who was 13 or 14 at the time. Angela said she herself was barely 15 when she first met the defendant and had sexual intercourse with him at his apartment.

Angela testified after their initial sexual encounter she saw Kelly every day for years, and was encouraged to drop out of school to pursue a singing career with him. She eventually became a backup dancer for Kelly, touring with him in 1992 and 1993.

She said Kelly introduced her to Aaliyah on her 13th birthday, and said she would be the next ‘hottest wave,’ and told Angela that she would serve as one of her backup singers.

Aaliyah accompanied Kelly on tour as his protégé to ‘get her feet’ wet and it was during the tour that Angela walked in on them.

A witness simply known as ‘Alex,’ described how Kelly befriended him at a party before eventually engaging him as a sexual partner. Alex said Kelly also invited him to participate in ‘countless’ sexual encounters with a variety of nameless women. He said while he was having sex with different female partners, Kelly watched, masturbated and recorded the activity on his I-pad. Kelly had a rule that he should call him ‘Daddy,’ and when he was having sex with other women they were not allowed to talk to each other. He conceded that he did not know their names and they often appeared zombie-like.

The government’s case continues tomorrow.

Day 14 | Sept. 9, 2021

A woman took the stand to talk about how she started working as a radio station intern in 2003, before meeting Kelly and working for him. This led to what she described as a horrific incident where she was locked up for days, drugged, then sexually assaulted by the defendant.

Former employee Diana Copeland highlighted Kelly’s stringent policy on keeping his live-in girlfriends away from men—even requiring their Uber drivers or nail salon techs be female only. Copeland’s pay was docked when a scheduled nail salon appointment included a male employee.


Day 13 | Sept. 8, 2021

Jane Doe #3, a radio station intern in 2003, details a horrific account of being trapped in a dark room for days resulting in the kidnapping charge against Kelly. She alleges he violated her while she was drugged and unconscious. She met him at the age of 21 in Salt Lake City when she approached his entourage about an interview. She accepted an offer to be flown out to Chicago and while waiting at his studio in a windowless room, she found it was locked from the outside. After banging on the door, she was told she couldn’t leave without permission from Kelly. After two days passed, she was given Chinese food and soda. She testified she passed out on the couch and awoke to find “someone had taken her clothes off and felt wet stuff between her legs.” Kelly was in the room, pulling up his pants, according to Jane Doe.

Day 12 | Sept. 3, 2021

R. Kelly sits in court watching the cross-examination of his studio manager on August 26, 2021. (Jane Rosenberg, Sketch Artist)

Jurors heard about a $200,000 civil settlement one of Kelly’s accusers received after allegations he gave her herpes in 2001. Jane Doe (uncharged acts) testified she was 27 when she met Kelly and asked him to use protection when they first started having sex citing a fear of AIDS and STDs, but he declined.

Day 11 | Sept. 2, 2021

A 31-year-old woman testified for the prosecution but revealed she didn’t want to be on the stand and balked at nailing down exactly when in her teens Kelly began having sex with her. She was 15 in 2006 when the relationship with the singer began—one filled with backstage passes, free flights and hotels. She described having threesomes with Kelly and his girlfriend after Kelly had her wear lingerie. She was instructed to “walk” the girlfriend who was on her hands and knees wearing a leash and collar.

The defense declined to cross examine this witness at all.

Day 10 | Sept. 1, 2021

Jane Doe #6 testified Kelly sometimes kept a gun by his side, adding to her fear of disobeying his commands. She described an abusive sexual relationship that began when she was 19 and ended in a New York hotel suite with a herpes diagnosis. JD6 is an accuser who sued the defendant the following year in 2018 for violating public health laws.

Prosecutors also called to the stand the pastor who married Kelly and Aaliyah in 1994. Nathan Edmonds said he didn’t know the couple was anyone special and he performed the 10-minute ceremony as a favor to a friend (Keith Williams who previously testified).  Edmonds said he was shown a marriage license with Aaliyah listed as 18.

Day 9 | Aug. 31, 2021

Another Jane Doe (uncharged acts) testified about a more recent encounter with Kelly after a 2017 San Antonio concert. The self-described initial “non-fan” testified she met Kelly at age 19 with her older sister. The two were still high school students when Kelly paid for their flights, hotel room and concerts in various cities. During the brief relationship, Jane Doe said Kelly demanded sex and exposed her to an STD without her knowledge.

Former employee Suzette Mayweather recalled Kelly reprimanding her for letting a female guest leave to use the bathroom without getting his permission first. He also sent her on a bizarre midnight run for pies only to see if she would do it.

Day 8 | Aug 30, 2021

 John Doe  testified about being lured to Kelly’s home in 2007 with false offers of success in the music business. The witness said he was 17-years-old when Kelly performed oral sex on him. Another time, a naked girl appeared from under a boxing ring when summoned by the snap of Kelly’s fingers—she then performed oral sex on Kelly and the witness. The defendant told the high schooler to keep the encounters “just between me and him,” John Doe testified.

Day 7 | Aug. 26, 2021

Jane Doe 5 finished her turn on the witness stand by reading aloud shocking letters in which she confessed to nearly everything the defense has accused her of. But Jane said none of it was true, and that the defendant forced her to write every word, leaving the jury to decide what to believe.

It was the defense who first directed the 23-year-old former girlfriend to read some of the letters. Addressing her parents, she berated them for using her as “bait” in a plot to extort Kelly to satisfy their greed. “You made me feel like a ho and a prostitute,” she said. She accused them of teaming up with other parents to find “old girlfriends that were mad.”

• Defense finishes cross exam of Jane Doe 5
• Jane reads aloud numerous letters that she claims the defendant forced her to write to “protect” him
• Jane’s friend said Jane stopped communicating with her after leaving Orlando to be with Kelly and chastised her for reaching out because Kelly might see it
• Kelly friend Keith Williams grows emotional while testifying about getting pastor for Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah
• Semen identified on T-shirt that Jerhonda Pace said had Kelly’s saliva and semen; saliva results inconclusive

Day 6 | Aug. 25, 2021

  • Prosecution finishes direct examination of Jane Doe 5
  • Jane Doe 5 says Kelly made her lie to Gayle King in an interview two months after the release of “Surviving R Kelly
  • During lengthy cross-examination, defense lawyer Devearaux Cannick grills Jane on her parents’ possible motives for letting Kelly get close to their daughter
  • Cannick questions Jane about lying to police and Kelly about her age on the day of their first sexual encounter
  • Jane reads aloud letters reminiscing about good times with Kelly, including time he staged $500 worth of Red Lobster in a room and played music for her

Day 5 | Aug. 24, 2021

A former girlfriend of the R&B star known as RKelly said he made her lie to journalist Gayle King in an interview that was supposed to repair his tarnished reputation in the wake of “Surviving R Kelly.”

  • Prosecution finishes direct examination of Jane Doe 5
  • Jane Doe 5 says Kelly made her lie to Gayle King in an interview two months after the release of “Surviving R Kelly
  • During long cross examination, defense lawyer Devearaux Cannick grills Jane on her parents’ possible motives for letting Kelly get close to their daughter
  • Cannick questions Jane about lying to police and Kelly about her age on the day of their first sexual encounter
  • Jane reads aloud letters reminiscing about good times with Kelly, including time he staged $500 worth of Red Lobster in a room and played music for her

Day 4 | Aug. 23, 2021

Jane Doe #5 was a 17-year-old high school junior and aspiring singer when she met R&B star RKelly, eager for his mentorship. Within two years, she claims Robert Sylvester Kelly infected her with herpes, physically abused her and pressured her to have an abortion — all with the help of numerous associates.

Now 23 years old, and known as Jane Doe 5, she was the second accuser to testify in Kelly’s federal sex crimes trial on Brooklyn and paint a disturbing picture of alleged sexual servitude and mental subjugation under Kelly’s grip.

  • Former Kelly tour manager Demetrius Smith finishes testifying
  • Jane Doe 5 is the second alleged victim to take the stand and paint a disturbing picture of sexual servitude and psychological subjugation allegedly under Kelly’s control

Day 3 | Aug 20, 2021

–       Testimony from Anthony Navarro, a former employee of Kelly, corroborating some of Jerhonda Pace’s testimony while contradicting parts
–       Testimony from Cook County Clerk’s Office supervisor (former clerk) verifying marriage documents for Kelly & Aaliyah
–       Testimony of Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former personal assistant and tour manager

In this courtroom artist’s sketch made from a video screen monitor of a Brooklyn courtroom, defendant R. Kelly, top left, listens as Jerhonda Pace, far left, testifies against the R&B star during the singer’s sex abuse trial, Wednesday Aug. 18, 2021, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

The day began with the government calling witness #4, Anthony Navarro to the stand. He is a former employee of Kelly, who worked for him from 2007 through 2009, signing an NDA to do so.  He testified he picked up food for Kelly and his guests, who he described as mostly “girls,” drove them around and did other errands.  He testified he was not allowed to speak with any guests, as “that was one of Rob’s rules for us.” He also testified the girls were supposed to stay in designated rooms, and if they were caught outside of those rooms, he asked them why and alerted Kelly or a manager. He said on a direct examination about the girls, “they had to get permission for most things…like if they wanted food.” However, on cross, he clarified that he did not have to unlock rooms to let people in and out. There were “regular door knobs,” and while some folks could not leave due to transportation issues, they were free to walk off the premises. He also went back and forth on how young the girls appeared: on direct, he testified the girls who crossed into the property “looked really young,” yet on cross said that no guests appeared underage (and seemed his age, 21-22 at the time).  On redirect, he said of working for Kelly “it was a weird time for me, things you had to do was just uncomfortable,” adding that Kelly’s property “was like the twilight zone… You just went into the gate, it was like a different world.”

Shortly before lunch, prosecution witness #5 took the stand. Courtney Wilson was an attorney for the Chicago law firm, which Jerhonda Pace hired in January 2010. Her testimony was brief, but she told the jury she did client intake for Jerhonda, who told her she had a T-short with Kelly’s semen on it which she used to wipe her body.  On cross, the defense brought out that the memo did not note they had the T-shirt.

Government witness #6 took the stand in the afternoon session. Carolyn Harris is a supervisor at the Cook County Clerk’s office in Illinois and previously a clerk. She testified she worked there when the marriage application, license and certificate were issued for Robert Kelly and Aaliyah D. Haughton. She testified about the documents which indicate Aaliyah’s birthdate as 1/16/76 and her age as 18. She also said the ID used for Aaliyah was from the Illinois Department of Public Aid, which is typically not accepted, but the clerk can decide to approve it and did approve it. The clerk who approved this was NOT this witness. She said the marriage license indicates Kelly and Aaliyah got married August 31, 1994.

The final witness of the day was Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former personal assistant and tour manager. He started working with Kelly in 1984. He testified that he traveled with Kelly to Detroit to meet Aaliyah and her family in the early ‘90s.  He said Kelly was told to meet Aaliyah because she was believed to have talent. He testified Kelly wrote Aaliyah’s first album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.’ He said Kelly would clear the room if Aaliyah was uncomfortable while they were creating music, and that there were times the two were alone in Kelly’s home. He later testified that Kelly mentioned to him that Aaliyah was in trouble, and that immediately after a concert, he and Kelly boarded a plan to Chicago in the middle of tour. He recalled asking an apparently worried Kelly “What’s going on?” to which Kelly replied, “Aaliyah man, she thinks she’s pregnant.” Then arrangements ensued for Kelly to marry Aaliyah. Smith testified that he went to the Illinois Department of Public Aide, driving while Kelly & Aaliyah followed behind in a separate car. He described going inside and bribing an employee with $500 to create a fake ID for Aaliyah, who was then just 15 years old. He said he “went inside, felt my way around, approached a person, she agreed”…. Going on to say “Aaliyah came in, she took the ID, we left, it was just that fast.”  He described how they then went to a courier store (could not recall if it was FEDEX) and got a work ID for Aaliyah.  From there, he says, they all went to City Hall with Derrell McDavid (Kelly’s business manager/accountant) to get a marriage license. He said the IDs were rejected, so Derrell talked to someone at City Hall and they got married.

Smith will continue testifying Monday. Throughout his time on the stand, he appeared very hesitant to testify. At one point as the prosecutor questioned him, he proclaimed, “I feel like I’m on trial for Aaliyah, shit!” On another occasion, as the prosecutor aggressively questioned him, he said “you keep on threatening me, I’m ready to go home.” Later in the day, he said, “I’m uncomfortable with this, im truly uncomfortable…we are continuously talking about Aaliyah and here parents aren’t here.


Day 2 | Aug. 19, 2021

At end of day, court dismissed Alternate Juror #3. Her job would not pay income or benefits if she continues to serve on the trial. Jury panel is 12 jurors with 5 alternates. Gender breakdown remains the same because she was an alternate.

However, the day began with continued direct examination of alleged victim Jerhonda Pace. She reiterated Kelly recorded their sexual intercourse, sometimes asking her to dress as a Girl Scout in pigtails. She even had “Rob” tattooed on her body, though it is unclear why.

By mid-morning, defense attorney Deveraux Cannick began cross examination, during which Pace sounded confident maintaining her composure. However, the defense scored points later in the day by showing photos of the witness both at Kelly’s home and in his presence wearing tight-fitting clothing despite her claims Kelly forced her to wear baggy clothes, as part of his “rules.” The defense also drew out occasions where the witness actively pursued Kelly, even waiving down his car at his 2008 court case, lurking behind it until she could get an autograph.

The defense also introduced a settlement agreement in which Pace agreed she had told Kelly she was 19 and showed him a fake ID indicating the same. The defense also brought out on cross-examination that Pace wanted to get back together with Kelly between and during the three separate lawsuits she filed against him. Additionally, the defense introduced a 2019 transcript in which Pace told the government that the defendant had talked to her about herpes in 2009, saying “Daddy is not doing too good” and even checked Pace’s vagina for herpes. It refuted Pace’s prior testimony during this trial Kelly told her nothing about having herpes.

The most emotional part of Pace’s testimony came when she began sobbing while reading a journal entry on cross-examination dated January 23, 2010, the last time she saw Kelly. It read “I went to Rob’s house and Rob called me a silly bitch. Rob slapped me three times and told me if I lied to him again it is not going to be an open hand next time. He spit on my face and in my mouth. He choked me during an argument. I had sex with him. I had oral sex with him. Then I became fed up with him, went home and confessed.”

It was later revealed on re-cross that the journal entries were not made on the dates listed, and in fact were made after Pace had met with her attorneys.

In the afternoon, the state called witnesses #2 and #3. They were an Olympia Fields police officer and Kelly’s long-time physician. The police officer testified he responded to a 2009 missing juvenile call at Kelly’s home. It turned out to be then 17-year-old Dominique Gardner. The officer testified that someone at security referred him to the business manager, who told him that the girl was asked to leave after learning of her age, and that Kelly had no further contact with Dominique after learning her age. It is important to note that Dominique and Pace had previously been in a romantic relationship during Pace’s testimony, and that Pace had Dominique’s name tattooed on her body along with their anniversary date.

Next, Dr. Chris McGrath took the stand. He had been Kelly’s doctor for 25 years. He testified about treating Kelly for various sexually transmitted diseases starting in 1995, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. In fact, he had treated Kelly so much for herpes, he had memorized the number for the pharmacy where he called in medications for him. But notably, he believed he had not treated Kelly for herpes until 2011. (Though he did treat him for other STDs earlier). This is noteworthy because Jerhonda Pace claims that she contracted herpes from Kelly during their 2009-2010 sexual contact.

At end of day, court dismissed Alternate Juror #3. Her job would not pay income or benefits if she had continued to serve on the jury. Jury panel is 12 jurors with 5 alternates.


Outside the presence of the jury, prosecutors inform the court about one of Kelly’s defense attorneys, Thomas Farinella, tweeting from the courtroom, violating one of the judge’s rules, Local Rule 23.1.

Judge asked Farinella, “Didn’t I tell you not to speak to media?”
Farinella says he didn’t know it violated the rule and wouldn’t do it again.

Unlike the other three members of Kelly’s defense team, Thomas Farinella is not newly hired. While it wasn’t until Kelly’s former counsel, Steve Greenberg withdrew that Farinella became more publicly visible, Farinella tells Court TV he actually wrote Kelly’s bond appeal in 2019 and is counsel for the R&B star on the New York Supreme Court civil case.


R. Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (SKETCH ARTIST – JANE ROSENBERG)


  • Testified that Kelly recorded sexual intercourse
  • Says Kelly requested she dress as a girl scout in pig tails during intercourse at times
  • Arranged visits with Kelly through phone including on the phone shown
  • Went through call records showing calls and messages between witness and defendant
  • Shows images including one of Jerhonda with “ROB” tattoed on her body (later covered it with a black heart)

CROSS -EXAMINATION (begins at 10:05am) by Deveraux Cannick

  • The conversations with Kelly were short
  • Recalls Kelly’s number but not her mother’s or her own at that time
  • Made calls to Kelly even after initiating a lawsuit, defense asks if she was *stalking* him, which she denied
  • Met with the prosecutors for some 6 hours on Monday
  • Knows the prosecutors on a first-name bases
  • Went over questions with prosecutors


Day 1 | Aug. 18 

Artist sketch of attorney Nicole Blank Becker delivering the opening statement in defense of R. Kelly on Day 1 of his sex trafficking trial in Brooklyn Distric Court. Kelly is facing life in prison without parole for nine charges spanning over three decades. (Court TV/ Elizabeth Williams)

  • Nicole Becker delivers the opening statements for the defense

“You’ll hear he’s sold millions upon millions of records, you’ll hear that he has so many fans that truly love & adore him…that his music touched and uplifted their lives…”

  • Attorney Becker begins talking about Jane Doe #1

“If he were involved in a crime from 1994, would we be here today?”

“When it comes to Aaliyah, God rest her soul, she passed away. She’s not going to be here to testify. Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be no evidence, no proof, that she was pregnant”

Attorney Becker begins talking about Jane Doe #1

“If he were involved in a crime from 1994, would we be here today?”

“When it comes to Aaliyah, God rest her soul, she passed away. She’s not going to be here to testify. Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be no evidence, no proof, that she was pregnant”

Jane Doe #2

  • Kelly and JD2 dated for 6-8 months
  • She came to see him, got on a plane, no one forced her
  • We need you to use your common sense when you hear testimony from JD2
  • She came to the studio in hopes of getting to know Mr. Kelly
  • She always had her cellphone with her and a landline
  • She took showers outside of the room she was staying in
  • She called the front desk reception 80xs asking “Where is R. Kelly”
  • There’s no evidence or proof the prosecution can show that the doors only locked from the outside

Jane Doe #4

  • Admits she’s a superfan
  • Skipped school, lied to her mom so she could pursue her passion, R. Kelly.
  • The proverbial word “groupie” can be used to describe Jane Doe #4
  • Her story is like a snowball that expands with lies getting bigger and bigger attaching more and more to the interaction between her and Mr. Kelly.

Artist sketch of Assistand U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez delivering the opening statement for the prosecution on Day 1 of R.Kelly’s sex trafficking trial in Brooklyn Distric Court. Kelly is facing life in prison without parole for nine charges spanning over three decades. (Court TV/ Elizabeth Williams)

Prosecution Opening Statements

  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Melendez begins a powerful opening statement by calling Kelly a predator, who hid in plain sight for years.
  •  Prosecution identifies Jane Doe #1 as singer Aaliyah who met Kelly when she was 12 years old.
  • A clean cut R. Kelly hangs his head at the prosecutor, detailing accusations about how Kelly planned to marry Aaliyah in 1994, when he believed she was pregnant, to keep her from ever testifying against him.

Jane Doe #1 – Aaliyah

  • Aaliyah met Defendant in 1992 when she was 12
  • She was an aspiring singer, she had a gift
  • Kelly engaged in sexual activity with her for years
  • He learned she believed she was pregnant
  • He decided he needed to marry her
  • At the time, as he understand it, she couldn’t be forced to talk if they were married
  • In the middle of his tour, he flew to Chicago in the middle of the night
  • Aaliyah was waiting there
  • Kelly and several of his associates decided they needed to figure out the problem of Aaliyah being 15, and needing to be 18 to get a marriage license
  • They had to bribe someone to get her a fake i.d.

Jane Doe # 3

  • In prosecutor opening statements, describes an occasion in which the alleged victim discovered the door locked, spent three days in a room pleaded to go get food, go to the bathroom, etc., but not being allowed out before finally getting some cold Chinese food, then falling asleep and waking up to find her underwear off, wetness between legs, and defendant pulling up pants, grabbing her backside and ordering her to go. Defendant allegedly warned her to keep quiet, and she did for 16 years.

Jane Doe 4- Jerronda, a 16-year old, met defendant at a party in 2009

  • She claimed to be 19, they exchanged numbers, she told him she was a virgin, and he said he wanted to train her to do oral sex, and that’s what happened. She later told him she was 16 and showed her ID. The defendant allegedly did NOT ask her to leave, and instead told her to tell people she is 19, and continued sexual relationship. Defendant allegedly became controlling, slapped her, choked her, and forced her to give him oral sex.

Jane Doe #5 – Zelle met the defendant at age 17 in 2015 when the defendant was 48 years old

  • Alleges that an associate of the defendant gave her a wristband to attend a concern, giving his phone number.
  • She initially said she was 18
  • Alleged the defendant told her to come for an audition, at which time he told her to sit on his lap, give him a kiss, invited her to hotel room, said he needed to “relieve” himself sexually, did oral sex on her, video recorded their sexual encounters
  • Alleges the defendant told her parents he would help with her career saying she would be the next Aaliyah
  • Allegedly told the defendant she was 17, yet alleges the defendant went on to tell her to live with him
  • Alleges the defendant exposed her to herpes, which is a crime in both NY & CA, both of which states they had sex
  • Alleges the defendant imposed strict rules telling her to call him “daddy” and confining her to a room for days

Jane Doe 6 – Faith was 19 years old when she met the defendant in 2017, at which time he was 50

  • Allegedly met the defendant at a concert, and he began flying her around the country. On one occasion, he allegedly brought her into a small room with a gun, asking her questions, engaged in unprotected sex exposing her to herpes

Prosecution lays out charges, explaining how they link to each alleged victim, claiming they have text messages, phone records, travel records, medical records, physical evidence, and more to back up their case


Wednesday, Aug. 18 | Jury Sworn In

A newly sworn in jury hears opening statements in the case against R. Kelly in a Brooklyn District Court.

The jury consists of 12 jurors and six alternates. On the main panel, there are 7 men, 5 women. The court has not released racial demographics on the jury at this time.


Tuesday, Aug. 10 | Jury Selection Continues

Day Two of jury selection ends with the judge announcing there are enough qualified jurors for the attorneys to begin using their strikes. They’ll begin selecting/eliminating from a pool of 50 in the morning. Final jury panel (12 jurors 6 alternates) will be sworn in on Aug 18 before opening statements.

Judge and attorneys weren’t certain of peremptory totals and order (they believe it’s 10 for defense and 6 for government, each round the government can strike one and the defense two) but Judge said she’ll confirm using the chart in the morning.

One potential juror was excused after admitting she’d researched ‘racketeering’ and went “down a rabbit hole” with it.  Others admitted to researching Robert Sylvester Kelly’s music after getting their questionnaire, but didn’t face the same excuse once they promised not to let it impact their ability to be fair and impartial.

Before adjourning, attorneys asked the judge to tell the jurors that parties aren’t allowed to speak to them, it’s not that they are being rude. This seems necessary, as the parties have said no more than “good morning” to potential jurors throughout the entire jury selection. All questions came through Judge Ann Donnelly.

Kelly wore a white paper mask here and there at the defense table during individual voir dire. Unclear why he continued to alternate between wearing one and not. He continued to show high interest in the paperwork, presumably questionnaire copies, as the judge questioned potential jurors one-on-one.

Courtroom Highlights
  • Jury selection continues to move at a rather swift pace, individual questioning last five to ten minutes per person.
  • News of Governor Cuomo’s resignation resonates through the Brooklyn courthouse at a delayed pace because journalists and spectators alike aren’t permitted to have electronics.
  • Several potential jurors who were qualified note they have a law enforcement background or close relatives in law enforcement
    • One woman has a cousin with Homeland Security. Judge Donnelly tells her reps from Homeland Security will be testifying in this trial, and ensures the potential juror can still be fair and impartial.
  • ‘I believe I can Fly’ song mentioned twice as the one thing they know about the defendant
  • Court clears 14 jurors for Day 2 of jury selection, 4 excused and 10 retained.
  • Bill Cosby and Jeffrey Epstein’s names raised several times during RKelly jury selection.
    • One potential juror said he knew a Cosby family member, and another two followed the Epstein scandal closely. All three agreed they could set aside their feelings and were qualified for the next round.

  • An animated Robert Sylvester Kelly appears very involved in his case’s paperwork at the defense table Tuesday. He’s intently writing and reading paperwork while having emphatic discussions with his newly hired lawyer, Nichole Blank Becker, about the document.


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Monday, Aug. 9, 2021 | Jury Selection

  • Jury selection begins at 9 a.m. ET in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Judge Ann Donnelly individually questions more than 30 potential jurors and dismisses about 13
  • 3 potential jurors say they cannot presume Kelly innocent
  • 2 potential jurors didn’t know who RKelly was before summons
  • At least two women excused due to personal experiences with sexual abuse
  • Donnelly adds last-minute question for potential jurors about issues or concerns with same-sex relations/sexual activity per defense request after prosecutors file motion saying they intend to introduce evidence of uncharged acts allegedly involving two teen boys
  • Donnelly asks each potential juror if they know three additional witnesses whose names were not included in the questionnaire; only one person says yes
  • WATCH: 8/9/21 R. Kelly Sex Trafficking Trial: Jury Selection Day 1

VIEW: R. Kelly Legal Timeline

VIEW: R. Kelly NYC Trial Background 

This story was originally published by Beth Hemphill, Court TV, on Monday, August 9. Court TV Legal Correspondent Julia Jenae, Court TV field producers Joy Nakrin and Emanuella Grinberg, and Grace Wong contributed to this report. 

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