Day 1 of testimony during R. Kelly‘s sex trafficking trial in Brooklyn got off to a lively start after one of the prosecution’s star witnesses said under oath that the singer with whom she alleged to have a sexual relationship did not care that she was underage. In fact, he was allegedly encouraged by it.
Jerhonda Pace, whose name people may recognize from the “Surviving R. Kelly” docu-series that inspired authorities to hit the disgraced singer with criminal charges, took the stand and ran down a list of damning accusations in which she claimed she was sexually violated by a grown man more than twice her age, according to reports from the New York Times.
Kelly, 54, who is charged with racketeering for allegedly kidnapping and exploiting underage girls and women sexually and otherwise under the so-called Mann Act, which makes illegal transporting “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”
After the prosecution and defense exchanged opening statements, Pace, now 28-years-old, described how Kelly, who was 41 at the time, told her to lie about her age after she admitted that she was 16 and not 19 as she had originally told him. She said the singer was ambivalent to her disclosure and told her “to tell everyone I was 19 — and to act 21.”
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Pace testified that Kelly said it was “good” when she told him she was a virgin.
The Times reported that Pace said Kelly “told her he would train her how to please him sexually.”
Pace has ‘regret’ over ‘speaking out about R. Kelly’
Pace, who is reportedly far along in a pregnancy, recently spoke out via her social media channels and suggested she was being forced to testify.
She said in an Instagram post that she was “stressed, pissed and annoyed” because she could not “enjoy my last weeks of pregnancy.” She suggested the situation was “out of her control.”
Taking it a step further, Pace added that she was “starting to regret ever speaking out about R. Kelly” and worried about her future newborn child.
“My baby can come any day now and I have to take the stand and testify,” Pace wrote. “NO, I AM NOT OKAY.”
Pace added in the comments that she was given an ultimatum to “testify or have a warrant out for my arrest.” She said that even if she was arrested, she would still have to testify.
No lies detected
Pace’s story has been consistent for more than three years now since BuzzFeed reported her claims in 2017.
She said she met Kelly in 2008 outside of his child pornography case that he was ultimately acquitted for. The 16-year-old was a devoted fan who had even given interviews to various media outlets during the trial, during which she dismissed the allegations against him. Their meeting—which led to Kelly bringing Pace to his suburban Chicago home—developed into an alleged sexual relationship that Pace said she was paid to keep secret via nondisclosure agreements.
Kelly, during which Kelly would allegedly film their sexual activity without her permission (she says she was a virgin at the time, which Kelly found to be “exciting;” he was approximately 41 years old when they met) and became increasingly controlling over time.
The mother of three told BuzzFeed that she was “mentally and physically abused” by Kelly and had to follow a set of “rules” whenever she was inside of his home.
“At the time, I didn’t know what I liked, honestly,” Pace told BuzzFeed. “I just knew that I liked his music, so I was pretty much accepting of anything that came with him at the time.”
BuzzFeed reported that Pace’s claims were vetted by “several individuals with firsthand knowledge of the situation.”
Pace reportedly said she chose to break a signed nondisclosure agreement out of concern for the women allegedly being held by Kelly.
“If I can speak out and I can help them get out of that situation, that’s what I will do,” Pace said at the time. “I didn’t have anybody to speak up on my behalf when I was going through what I was going through with him. He’s brainwashed them really bad, and it kind of reminds me of Charles Manson.”
R. Kelly maintains his innocence
Kelly has remained adamant that he is not guilty of any of the charges. One of his lawyers attempted to discredit Pace before she even testified.
“I can’t even count that high how many untruths you’re going to hear from Jane Doe No. 4,” defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker said, calling Pace by the name used in court records. “Jane Doe No. 4’s story is like a snowball: ‘I met R. Kelly,’ ‘Oh, I saw R. Kelly,’ and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. The lies that she tells about her and R. Kelly: You’ll see them unfold.”
Days a “Surviving R. Kelly” aired in January 2019, Pace posted a since-deleted tweet: “Count your days @rkelly,” using his Twitter handle for an account that has been suspended.
The prosecution has a strong case
Pace was one of six girls and women who the prosecution is centering its case on. One of them is the late singer Aaliyah, who famously married Kelly when she was just 15 years old.
The pair secretly married in 1994 when she was 15 and he was 27. Kelly “allegedly bribed a government official to obtain a fake ID for her showing her age as 18, according to a 55-page motion filed by prosecutors last week,” according to USA Today. The marriage was later annulled.
The defense claims that Kelly only married Aaliyah because she became pregnant at the time. He then allegedly secretly arranged a marriage to “protect himself from possible criminal charges, because a wife can’t be forced to testify against a husband.”
Earlier this month before a jury of seven men and five women being selected to serve, open of Kelly’s lawyers claimed the accused pedophile’s once-heavy pockets have become considerably lighter since he’s been in jail. But, they added, being behind bars has had the opposite effect on his ballooning physique.
The two factors are linked because it means not only that Kelly needs to be measured for new clothing to wear during his trial, but he also cannot even afford to pay for court transcripts, let alone his legal fees, because he hasn’t been able to perform in nearly two years, one of his lawyers, Devereaux Cannick, said at a hearing on Aug. 3.
The trial could last as long as two months.
A guilty verdict would likely send Kelly to prison for most of the rest of his life.