Editorial note: This article includes detailed descriptions of sexual assault, abuse and grooming.
On Monday, day eight of the sex trafficking trial against disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly—full name Robert Sylvester Kelly—a fourth accuser took the stand in Brooklyn federal court.
An aspiring dancer and actor at the time,“Addie,” as she is described, recounted the day she was raped by Kelly in his dressing room when she was 17 years old, just two days after he illegally married Aaliyah. As reported by Vulture, Addie alleged that she and her 19-year old friend were taken backstage by “bouncer-type” men to meet Kelly after his performance at the Budweiser Superfest in Miami under the guise of obtaining autographs. Though Addie was there to see Aaliyah, she testified that the “One In A Million” singer never performed and Kelly closed out the event. Though he was in the process of getting interviewed, shortly after the girl’s arrival backstage, Kelly told everyone to leave.
More from Vulture on Addie’s encounter with Kelly:
“I told him I wasn’t sure I was even allowed to be in the room, because I was 17-years-old,” she said, adding shortly thereafter, “He didn’t respond about my age.”
Kelly talked to one of the bouncers. Everyone was escorted out of the room except the two teens. “They told us to stay,” she said of the bouncers. “He wanted to play a game, asking who could kiss better,” she said. Kelly discussed a new song he was working on, and started to play it.
“He started kissing on my best friend.” At first, Addie’s best friend kissed back. She stopped. He started kissing on me,” Addie said. She kissed back “at first, and then I felt a little overwhelmed [and] pulled back.”
“He started getting a little more aggressive and basically kind of moved toward the back of the room.” Kelly was “holding my wrists and unzipped my pants. He sort of guided me to the back of the room,” she said. “He had sex with me unprotected,” she said. Kelly tried grabbing the hand of Addie’s best friend “to try to make her participate, but she refused,” she alleged. After Kelly finished, Addie pulled her shorts back up. The teens unlocked the door and ran out.
After giving her account, Addie said that her friend tried to encourage her to press charges at the time, but out of shame, trauma and fear of being potentially blacklisted in the industry—she declined.
Later on Monday, Kelly’s first male accuser took the stand where he alleged the singer sexually assaulted him when he was 17 years old. A high school student at the time, “Louis,” described as “John Doe #1” in court documents, alleged that Kelly lured him to his Chicago-area home in 2007 with false offers of helping him with his budding music career. Per the AP, Kelly asked Louis what he was “willing to do for music,” but that his answer wasn’t what Kelly was looking for.
“I’ll carry your bags. ... Anything you need, I’ll be willing to do,” Louis replied at the time. Kelly then asked if he had ever fantasized about having sex with men,“crawled down on his knees” to perform oral sex on him, then told him to “keep it between the two of them.” Though Louis wasn’t into it, he explained that he kept seeing Kelly because he “really wanted to make it in the music industry.”
The New York Times also reports that Louis told the court that he brought friends to some of Kelly’s parties, including a 16-year-old boy who later got Kelly’s number and “began having sexual encounters with him too, while he was underage. During one encounter, Kelly wanted Louis and the boy toe “touch each other,” but both refused to do so.
Louis’ testimony comes as a part of cooperation agreement stemming from his guilty plea in a separate bribery case that alleged he offered money to potential witnesses to keep them from working with the government in its case against Kelly.
The above allegations are just the latest in the criminal trial against Kelly in Brooklyn federal court. The first two weeks of testimony were also rife with explicit and disturbing details about the singer’s allegedly extensive history of predation and grooming; domestic, sexual and emotional abuse; child pornography, sex trafficking and even claims of blackmail. Taken as a whole, the portrait of the “Pied Piper of R&B” appears to be more like The Picture of Dorian Gray, but given the decades of accusations that have been leveled against the entertainer—as well in subsequent interviews, the documentary Surviving R. Kelly (Pts. 1 and 2), and during the #MuteRKelly movement, equally shocking is the fact that Kelly was allowed to continue his pattern for so long. Accordingly, many are calling for a very necessary lens to also be turned to Kelly’s extensive entourage of enablers.
“It’s so easy for us to be caught up in the juicy details around the perpetrator and ignore this other narrative which, I would argue, is even more important: R. Kelly could not have done what he did for any extended period without people fixing things for him and supporting him,” Minette E. Drumwright, a researcher and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the New York Times.
Those people include managers, publicists, studio workers, chauffeurs and more; some of whom, like Louis, are now cooperating with federal authorities trying to bring Kelly to justice. In fact, as reported by The Root in 2019, at least 20 sex tapes were handed over to authorities by ex-employees, making the current indictments possible.
During the first week of the New York trial, Kelly’s former manager Demetrius Smith “reluctantly” (according to CNN) testified that he was “concerned about Kelly’s relationship with Aaliyah, but nevertheless helped the then 27-year-old illegally marry the 15-year-old “to protect himself, to protect Aaliyah,” during which Smith reportedly became tearful on the stand. His testimony, in addition to the cadre of other witnesses and former insiders who have referred to obeying “Rob’s Rules,” have made it painfully clear that Kelly’s depravity never existed in a vacuum; it required a complicit and committed network. In this way, references to Kelly’s “sex cult” are broader than just his accusers, but also include a network of acolytes who participated in years of the entertainer’s predation (even procuring many of his alleged victims), arguably allowing it to perpetuate.
To date, very few members of Kelly’s entourage have been charged with any crimes in relation to the singer—and those charges have seemingly been limited to “threatening and intimidating” accusers—including phoning in a gun threat to the New York screening event of Surviving R. Kelly. To date, Kelly is the only defendant named publicly in New York’s indictment; it is highly possible many of his enablers cut deals with the prosecution in exchange for immunity. But as allegations against the Pied Piper continue to mount, it begs the question: Will he be the only one held accountable?
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24 hours at RAINN.org or 1-800-656-4673.