R Kelly recorded sexual encounters and made teenager dress like a girl scout, court hears

A woman accusing R&B singer R Kelly of abuse has told a court he would often record their sexual encounters and sometimes ordered her to “dress like a girl scout”.

Jerhonda Pace, who was the first accuser to begin giving evidence during the opening of the trial in New York, returned to continue her testimony on Thursday – after previously telling the jury the star was aware she was 16 and a virgin when she first went to his home in 2010, when he was in his 40s.

She said Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, would demand she wear pigtails and “dress like a girl scout” on occasion during sexual encounters, which he often videotaped.

Jerhonda Pace, who is pregnant, takes the oath as singer R Kelly attends Brooklyn's Federal District Court during the start of his trial in New York on 18 August 2021. Pic: REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
Image:No cameras are allowed in court, but court sketches show Jerhonda Pace giving evidence as Kelly watched during the first day of the trial
R Kelly's long-anticipated federal trial arising from years of allegations that he sexually abused women and girls is another high profile case in the #MeToo era. Pic: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Image:The long-anticipated federal trial is another high profile case in the #MeToo era and has attracted lots of media interest. Pic: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The singer strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing. During cross-examination, one of his defence attorneys, Deveraux Cannick, suggested Ms Pace had mixed up dates for when she was involved with him and that it was she who had deceived the star, by lying about herself.

“You were in fact stalking him, right?” Mr Cannick asked. “That is not right,” Ms Pace responded.

Jurors were shown screenshots from the woman’s phone showing several communications with Kelly made in January 2010, including a text from him which said, “Please call”. There was also a photo of her with “Rob” tattooed to her chest – which she said she had since covered up “with a black heart”.

While some of the accusers will not be identified in the media, and are are identified as “Jane Does” in court, Ms Pace, who is now 28, was one of the women who appeared in the 2019 documentary series Surviving R Kelly and has spoken out against the singer publicly.

More on R Kelly

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During the times she spent at Kelly’s mansion, she was told to follow “Rob’s rules” and was told how to dress and when she could use the bathroom, she told the court previously. He also told her to tell people she was 19 “and act like I was 21”, she claimed.

This is the second day of Kelly’s trial, with both the prosecution and the defence giving their opening statements on Wednesday.

Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez told the court the case was about a “predator” who used his fame to get “access to girls, boys and young women”, while defence lawyer Nicole Blank Becker argued his accusers had been “consenting” and enjoyed the “notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar”.

One of R Kelly's attorneys, Deveraux Cannick, arrives at Brooklyn Federal Court on 19 August 2021. Pic: AP
Image:Deveraux Cannick, and Nicole Blank Becker and Thomas Farinella (below), are on Kelly’s defence team. Pics: AP
Two of R Kelly's attorneys, Nicole Blank Becker and Thomas Farinella, arrive at Brooklyn Federal court on 19 August 2021. Pic: AP

Kelly’s legal team is arguing that his accusers are “disgruntled groupies” who were “dying to be with him” and knew he had more than one girlfriend. They only started accusing him of abuse years later when public sentiment shifted in the #MeToo era, they argue.

Set to last for about a month, Ms Pace is the first witness to testify at Brooklyn Federal Court. The hearing is expected to include testimonies from several female accusers and at least one male accuser, with some allegations going back 20 years.

Other witnesses could include former associates who co-operated with Kelly, who have never spoken publicly before about their experiences.

Despite his success in the music industry, Kelly has faced allegations of sexual abuse throughout his career. In 2008, he went on trial in Illinois facing child pornography charges, but was acquitted.

The 54-year-old three-time Grammy winner, whose hits include I Believe I Can Fly, Bump ‘N’ Grind, She’s Got That Vibe and Ignition, has pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery, and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

The trial is being held before an anonymous jury of seven men and five women.

If he is found guilty, he could be jailed for years. However, the New York case is only part of the legal issues the singer is facing, with sex abuse charges brought in Illinois and Minnesota, too – to which he has also pleaded not guilty.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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