R. Kelly‘s sex trafficking trial continued on Aug. 24-25 in Brooklyn’s Eastern District of New York courthouse with a cross-examination of Jane Doe #5 following her testimony on Monday (Aug. 23), during which she alleged that R. Kelly began an abusive relationship with her at age 17 that lasted for five years.
Central to the arguments from both the prosecution and defense were a number of letters that Jane Doe #5 wrote while in a relationship with the infamous R&B hitmaker. She had previously testified that Kelly coerced her to write the letters under the advice of his lawyers, and that they included false statements about her parents. The defense, however, implied Jane Doe #5’s parents had been attempting to exploit R. Kelly from the start via their daughter, citing those letters as evidence. The defense had her read one of her letters in court, which included the following in a post-breakup note: “I would have to support you privately but not publicly… just know everything from here out is politics.”
Using the letters in an attempt to cast doubt on her testimony, the defense also brought up her father’s attempts to foster business connections with Kelly over the years. (One pitch to the singer involved a Bluetooth dildo that would play his music. Kelly turned the offer down.)
Her letters addressed to Kelly included explicit content and lyrics to the Jidenna song “Bambi.” Other were written as if addressing her family, but Jane Doe #5 testified the letters were never given to her family and were instead handed directly to Kelly, who gave them to his lawyers. The prosecution asked if she believed the letters were commissioned specifically to protect Kelly in a “trial like this,” to which she replied, “yes.”
In addition to dueling takes on the letters, the prosecution and defense sparred over whether her parents tried to make the then-17-year-old girl look older during her initial meeting with Kelly in 2015. The defense said her mother attempted to make her look “all grown” before meeting him, but the prosecution cited a text message in which her mother warned her “not to look too grown” ahead of the meeting.
She also testified that Kelly made her have sex with another man as a “punishment” for breaking one of his rules during their relationship. She testified that Kelly recorded her sexual encounter with a man he referred to as “Nephew” on an iPad: “He basically talked us through every single thing to do.”
Additionally, Jane Doe #5 testified that when she sat down for a 2019 interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning to defend R. Kelly, he was in the room giving her nonverbal cues. In the Brooklyn courthouse as he listened to her testify against him under oath, Kelly sat unflinching, a white mask covering half of his face the entire time.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty on all counts, which include charges of bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and racketeering.
Reporting by Neena Rouhani.