Charlamagne Tha God, the popular Breakfast Club co-host, author, and MTV2 star, is used to talking about his come up.
His 2017 book, Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It, chronicles the rise of an “ex-felon from Moncks Corner,” boasting “that little boy on the dirt roads of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, is a grown-ass man now and has managed to realize all the dreams I had for myself.”
But not so hidden in Charlamagne’s (birth name: Lenard Larry McKelvey) rags-to-riches narrative is the story of a young woman named Jessica Reid. Reid, whose name has been inextricably linked to McKelvey’s since 2001, says the radio host raped her when she was 15. She also claims that McKelvey has continued to “violate” her by denying the sexual-assault allegation and offering up his own version of events to his many followers and fans.
A Berkeley County incident report from June 2001 details the alleged sexual assault. According to the report, police responded to the Short Stay Naval Recreational Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 9, 2001. There, Reid’s friend told deputies they had been given a drink that “tasted like soda.” She said she woke up to a man trying to kiss her. She then “found Reid, in the room across from where she was, naked and crying stating that she had been raped.” The two girls were subsequently transported to the Summerville Medical Center, a 45-minute drive away.
McKelvey, aka Charlamagne, was arrested on June 22 and served with a warrant for criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree. That warrant stated that “the Defendant, who is a twenty two year old adult male, did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously engage in penile/vaginal intercourse with a fifteen year old female child,” and that Reid had implicated McKelvey while at the Summerville Medical Center, where examinations corroborated the sexual assault. The warrant also revealed that the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office was initially contacted by Reid’s mother, Joslyn Sullivan.
According to the Blast, Reid was “uncooperative” with prosecutors during the case and, “as as a result, they felt a conviction of Charlamagne on the arrested charge would be impossible.”
McKelvey pleaded guilty at the time to “contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” a less-severe charge, and received three years’ probation. Now, almost two decades later, Reid’s mother Joselyn has taken responsibility for her daughter’s lack of cooperation, telling the Blast that “she was trying to protect her daughter from suffering.” With the support of her mother, the now 32-year-old Jessica Reid is exploring her legal options and speaking out about the allegation.
Usually, McKelvey’s famous interview subjects are the ones in the hot seat. But in a 2013 video, the radio host addressed the sexual-assault charges against him—albeit in an interview favorably titled “Charlamagne Explains Being Accused Falsely of RAPE.” In the video, DJ Akademiks asks McKelvey how he “beat” the rape charge, to which he responds, “I didn’t do it.” He says that he was 20 years old when he threw the party (according to the arrest warrant, he was actually 22), and specifically recalls a girl who was in attendance: “She got drunk, high, whatever... something happened in the room with a couple of my dudes.” He insists that he had left at that point, continuing, “the next morning, I’m hearing she says she got raped.”
McKelvey says he was told at the time that his cousin was in jail for the sexual assault, so he went in to “talk to the detective myself.”
“I just told the detective, look, I take full responsibility for anything that happened in the house last night… nobody got raped.” He later learned that his cousin had never been arrested.
McKelvey claims he was arrested because police had no one else to pin the crime on: “So being that I went down there and took full responsibility, so, lock him up.”
“Whoever touched her, it wasn’t me,” he added. “I got, like, probation…something light.”
McKelvey told a similar story in his 2017 book, in which he wrote about the charge as a “turning point” in his life. “I rented a cabin at a place called Short Stay on Nearby Lake Moultrie and invited a whole gang of people to come over and party,” he wrote. “The night started off great—lots of drinking, smoking, dancing, and bullshitting. But at some point one of the girls passed out and when she woke up later that night, she claimed that some of the dudes at the party had sexually assaulted her. I wasn’t there at the time—I’d left to go get some weed—and when I finally heard about what had happened, the entire party had cleared out.”
“Apparently she’d gone into a dark room with some guys to have sex and when she’d started to protest, one of them said, ‘Relax, it’s Charlamagne.’” He then repeats the same story about going to the police station on behalf of his cousin, concluding, “The police did come and arrest me a few weeks later in connection to the assault. They took a couple of blood and hair samples but released me the same day. Eventually the criminal sexual charges were dropped.”
This month, however, the Blast reported that Reid was seeking legal representation and attempting to reopen her case. Reid’s mother, Joslyn, “says she and her daughter have already notified officials in Berkeley County about their intentions and requested information on the steps needed to go forward.” Joslyn also shared that she found the radio personality’s 2013 account of the alleged assault and subsequent charges “very hurtful.”
Sources “close to Reid” told the Blast that “she has also requested the DNA samples that Charlamagne provided during the investigation in 2001, claiming her family was never informed of the results from the blood work, and they believe the information in the samples could help their case.”
Berkeley County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson subsequently told the Blast that they are honoring McKelvey’s plea deal and cannot reopen the case; “[Wilson] admits the technology has evolved since 2001, but says the State is required by law to honor the agreement they made with Charlamagne and the case cannot be ‘resurrected.’” Wilson explained that the plea deal was negotiated due to the “victim’s absence and lack of evidence available at the time.”
On July 20, Reid wrote a letter to the South Carolina Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel, charging, “I am filing a claim against the prosecution because they failed to defend and promote justice.”
The letter begins, “On June 8, 2001, I was drugged and Rape by defendant Lenard Larry McKelevey [sic] at a party that he invited me and my friend to. I was only 15 years old at the time… They did not even try to hold him responsible for Raping me. Instead, the State allowed McKelevey to plead guilty to Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and agreed to dismiss the remaining charge which was Rape.”
“I was uncooperative at the time; traumatized on what happened to me.” Reid continues. “For many years, I have suffered because Lenard Larry McKelevey [sic] violated me. And, he continues to violate me on the radio, in his book and on social media. He jokes and laughs about drugging women and Raping them when they are incoherent.”
She concludes, “There have been some injustices with this case and we are fighting for it to be corrected.”
An online petition created by someone claiming to be Reid’s mother calls for McKelvey to be fired from the Breakfast Club. The petition reads, in part, “On June 8, 2001, I received a phone call that my daughter had been raped! I can’t express to you the fear and pain that I felt on that early morning… He took a plea to Contributing To The Delinquency Of A Minor with 3 years’ probation. Jessica didn’t testify because I felt she was already suffering enough at that time, and I didn't want her hurt anymore. I wanted to protect her from it all! For 17 years Jessica has suffered and her family as well. The case must be reopened for justice to be served!”
“He must take full responsibility for drugging and raping Jessica when she was 15 years of age… No matter how much money, fame, and fortune one may have you are not exempt from justice.”
In early July, McKelvey’s alleged victim came forward in a video interview which has since been taken down (the interviewer, radio host Troi Torain aka “Star,” reportedly received a letter from McKelvey’s legal team). Reid, who called in to share her story, says during the interview, “I want people to know who [McKelvey] really is… I just want closure in the whole situation. It’s been over 15 years now and I’m still dealing with it. I go to counseling for it, at one point I was on medication. It’s something that is with me to this day. And I really just want to put it behind me. And it’s hard to do that when you see this person on TV. He’s everywhere!”
Reid told Torain that she collapsed at the party in 2001 after finishing a drink that McKelvey made her. She also said that she and McKelvey had built a friendship by that point, and that he had picked her and her friend up that day. “I don’t want that man’s money, I don’t want nothing from him,” she insisted. “I just want people to know who he really is. He’s a liar.”
Reid relayed her story in even greater detail to Hollywood Life, recalling, “I don’t know how long I was laying there for, but then Charlamagne came in the room. He opened the door, came in, then closed the door. He got on that bed and started taking my clothes off. Meanwhile, I’m still at a state where I can’t move and I can’t do anything. I’m just lying there, but I was crying. I know he saw me crying. He knew I was crying and whimpering and he started talking to me. It was so gross and weird. He started talking to me saying, ‘Didn’t I tell you I was going to take care of you? You don’t have to worry about nothing, I got you.’ He took my clothes off and then he had sex with me, but that’s not all he did. He actually had oral sex with me, as well. And then he left the room and I’m just lying there in the room.” Reid also cited the 2013 interview in which McKelvey denies the allegations as a catalyst for coming forward, saying, “I saw him try to discredit me and I believe assassinate my character. It’s an important part of my healing process to speak out.”
McKelvey has reportedly “lawyered up” since Reid came forward, hiring attorneys Marty Singer and Michael Weinstein. In a statement, Weinstein told TMZ that, “More than seventeen years ago, Charlamagne was accused of a sexual assault. He never had sexual relations or any physical contact with the accuser and even provided DNA to prove it. At the time of these claims, Charlamagne cooperated fully with authorities, and after the investigation, this charge against him was dropped. Charlamagne has spoken about this many times over the years in public, including in his book. While Charlamagne has empathy for all sexual assault victims, he cannot take responsibility for a crime he did not commit.”
McKelvey has recently had to answer for a separate incident, too. In a 2015 video resurfaced on social media, he describes putting the aphrodisiac Spanish Fly in a woman’s drink and having sex with her while she was “drunk as shit” and “wasn’t coherent.” The woman had no recollection of their sexual encounter the next morning, he said. A spokeswoman for the radio host said of the video, “All actions reflected upon during that conversation were consensual. Spanish Fly is not an illegal substance and at no point was it purchased or shared without consent.” She also emphasized that the incident happened in the late ‘90s, “20 years ago.”
On Monday, McKelvey addressed the video himself on his podcast The Brilliant Idiots. “Back in 2015, I attempted to have a dialogue about rape culture with an emphasis on the role men play, and a clip was pulled from that conversation, and I can honestly say that I communicated that all wrong,” he offered. “I totally understand why y’all on my ass, and you have every right to be. I didn’t handle that conversation in the right way.”
“For the record,” he continued, “In 1997, I was having consensual sex with a young lady after we went to the sex store. Key word ‘we.’ And got Spanish fly, which is an aphrodisiac… we were both aware that we were gonna put this in a bottle of brandy.”
“I didn’t explain that situation well at all back in 2015, because the way social media took it was that I was confessing to drugging and having sex with an incoherent woman. That wasn’t the case,” he insisted. “We had consensual sex and then we both passed out, ‘cause we were both wasted.”
“I didn’t take advantage of anyone, and I want to apologize to anyone who was triggered by that story.”
The six-minute-long apology concluded, “I look forward to using my platform more responsibly to bring healing to victims and to just being a better ally.”
But that isn’t the only old interview that has McKelvey doing damage control. In a recently resurfaced Breakfast Club clip, McKelvey claims, “It’s a lot of things that guys did especially when we were young that were rape that we just didn’t consider rape.”
To illustrate his point, he talks about an incident with his wife when they were still dating. “Me and my wife dated for a whole year, she would not give me no pussy,” he says. “Me and my wife hung out one Saturday night and she got sloppy drunk and passed out in my momma’s house and I got that pussy. She was fucking me back and all that but she was really drunk. I asked her yesterday, ‘Yo, did I rape you the first time we ever had sex?’ And she goes, ‘I mean in hindsight, yeah…’”
On Tuesday’s edition of the Breakfast Club, McKelvey called his wife up to address the old clip and new controversy. He contextualized the story by explaining that he and his wife were having a conversation inspired by a headline they had seen, asking if drunk sex was rape. “So my wife and I were discussing it, because the first time we had sex we were super young and super, super drunk,” he recalled. “So I asked her, did she consider that consensual sex based off the conversation that was happening online?” He insisted that the clip that had been circulating cut off before the conclusion of the conversation: “She told me yea, I can see how people would say that, but that’s not what happened with us, it’s not like I said no.”
“Talk to the people, baby,” McKelvey urged his wife while on the line. “Did I rape you the first time we had sex with each other?”
“You need to learn how to tell stories,” she responded. “You shouldn’t have used the word rape, first of all, cause the conversation that we were having is about rape culture.”
“That’s not what went down,” she continued. “We both know what happened, and I was not passed out, I was very coherent. Like enough for me to lift up my hips so you could take my panties off.”
“I should have never used the term rape so loosely,” McKelvey agreed.
McKelvey has an HBO interview series, The Gray Area With Charlamagne Tha God, premiering this year, and a new book slated for October. A separate petition calling for him to be fired from the Breakfast Club is just a few hundred supporters away from its 20,000 goal.
UPDATE: Following publication of this story, a Forensic Services Laboratory report from the South Carolina criminal investigation was released, revealing that there was “no semen identified” from vaginal, oral, and rectal swabs of the accuser, and fingernail scrapings did not yield anything “of apparent serological evidentiary value.”