Editor’s note: The following article includes descriptions of sexual coercion and abuse.
The 11th day of R. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn federal court may not have brought stunning new revelations to the fore, but the testimony of a “reluctant” witness seemed to confirm a pattern of grooming by the disgraced entertainer that others have long claimed.
As reported by USA Today, a 31-year-old woman identified only as “Alexis” testified that she met Kelly when she was “15-going-on-16,” during the Jacksonville, Fla., stop of his “Light It Up” tour in 2006. Alexis stated that she entered into a friendship with the singer that quickly became sexual and continued on and off for the next nine years.
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The witness Alexis testified she was invited backstage by someone in his entourage to meet Kelly following the Jacksonville concert, then met him the next day on his tour bus in a mall parking lot. She said she signed a non-disclosure agreement there.
Did they ever discuss her age? “I may have,” she said. She said Kelly seemed to be amenable at the time to a platonic friendship.
Alexis acknowledged under questioning by prosecutors that she did not want to testify at the trial, and she had hazy memories of when and where alleged sexual encounters with Kelly first began and her age at the time.
“I don’t recall how old I was,” she said. “It’s hard. It was 16 years ago.”
How often did they have sex, she was asked. “I don’t really recall,” she said. She said her first sexual contact with him was at his suburban Chicago home, but they didn’t always have sex when they met.
She said the first time she went to visit him in Chicago they didn’t have sex but went to the movies or the mall. Later, she said, she also traveled to Atlanta, Detroit and Palm Springs to be with Kelly.
Alexis also echoed earlier witness testimony that Kelly had a habit of recording his sexual encounters, though she did not indicate that she had been taped performing any sexual acts. Instead, she testified about joining Kelly and members of his entourage “sitting around eating and joking” in a McDonald’s, which was captured on video.
“I was just worried about being in the video,” she told prosecutors. “I’m pretty sure I was probably 17 at the time...I was under the age of 18…” she responded when asked why, according to USA Today.
Alexis testified that the first phase of her relationship with Kelly ended when she became pregnant in 2010 (USA Today did not indicate if she had become pregnant by Kelly). The relationship resumed two years later and continued until she entered a relationship with someone else (who reportedly texted Kelly that she “wanted to be a wife”), at which time she “kinda cut ties.”
Nevertheless, Alexis testified that she maintained feelings for Kelly and still occasionally attended his concerts in Jacksonville.
In light of her testimony—which was not cross-examined by the defense—it should come as little surprise that Alexis is not among the complainants in Kelly’s trial, and her claims are not the source of any of the charges he is currently facing. She was instead brought forward by the prosecution to further illustrate a pattern of manipulation and coercion by Kelly, as he allegedly preyed on underaged fans for his sexual use with the help of a homegrown “criminal enterprise” of enablers.
Similarly, the prosecution brought forward forensics experts, one of whom corroborated claims made by the trial’s first witness, Jerhonda Johnson Pace, who explicitly described an instance of sexual abuse on the first day of the trial.
Pace, then a teen, recalled her last day at Kelly’s home, saying he spit on her, slapped her and choked her until she passed out after he flew into a rage because she texted a friend. After oral sex, she said, she used her blue shirt to wipe semen from her face, and saved it.
That T-shirt was examined by DNA expert Yongfei Wu, who compared the DNA on the shirt to DNA taken from Kelly via check swab.
“They are exactly the same,” said Wu, who upon cross-examination testified that he had not been made aware of the origin of the shirt or whether it had been stolen.
Also on the stand Thursday was a computer forensic agent for the Department of Homeland Security, Chris Wilson. According to USA Today, “Wilson testified about three devices he examined, two iPhones and a laptop, from which he said he was able to retrieve everything.”
He said he found a text message, sender unnamed, that read: “You’re young and there’s a lot of things you don’t know. … I want to groom you and be bonded with you,” which was sent on Dec. 24, 2017.
In all, Thursday’s testimonies were intended to further bolster the prosecution’s position that Kelly, who is facing decades’ worth of racketeering and sex trafficking charges in multiple states, is a a well-established sexual predator with a pattern of grooming especially vulnerable (read: underaged) victims.