During a 1999 dinner, R. Kelly went on a rant about the stigma of dating younger women before calling himself a “genius” and comparing himself to Jerry Lee Lewis, who married his teenage cousin, a witness testified in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday.
"He mentioned that he likes very young girls and that people make such a big deal of it. Even look at Jerry Lee Lewis, he is a genius and I am a genius,” the witness, a woman who was identified in court as “Stephanie,” told jurors in the sex-crime case against the singer.
According to Stephanie, Kelly likened himself to the “Great Balls of Fire” artist—whose career nosedived after he married his 13-year-old cousin in 1957—at the restaurant Houston’s in Chicago.
“We should be allowed to do whatever we want. Look at what we give the world,” Kelly, who has pleaded not guilty, allegedly said.
The dinner, which the woman said occurred amid a six-month relationship with Kelly when she was 17, was also said to include the hip hop duo Boo & Gotti. Stephanie, however, noted that she was not allowed to speak to the two rappers because it was against one of Kelly’s rules.
“I wasn’t meant to speak to any men except for Mr. Kelly,” the 39-year-old said.
Kelly, 54, faces charges including racketeering based on kidnapping, sexual exploitation of children, and forced labor. He is also charged with violations of the Mann Act, which prohibits the transport of people across state lines for sex.
Stephanie is the third accuser to speak out in court against Kelly as part of the federal case. Earlier this week, a woman identified as “Jane” testified about a harrowing five-year relationship with Kelly, including being kept in a room for three days after buying the wrong sized Hollister sweatpants and beaten with a size-12 Air Force 1 shoe for lying to the singer. In 2017, she said, the singer also forced her to have an abortion in an effort to “keep her body tight.”
“He would leave bruises and it would sometimes make my skin tear,” Jane said on Monday about the “chastisements,” adding that the singer would dole out the punishment every two to three days. “[Kelly] said that it was just a spanking to help me remember” his rules.
Jerhonda Pace, 28, testified on the stand last week that she was sexually and physically abused by Kelly when she was 16 years old. During their six-month relationship that ended in Jan. 2010 after the singer violently slapped her after calling her a “silly bitch” for lying, Pace said, Kelly also gave her herpes and never told her he had a sexually transmitted disease.
“He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a girl scout,” Pace told jurors last week. “He recorded us having sexual intercourse.”
On Thursday, Stephanie testified that she first met Kelly in the summer of 1998—when she and her boyfriend at the time were on a double date at the Rock N Roll McDonald’s in Chicago. She said that while she was waiting in line at the fast-food restaurant, a man approached her and asked her how old she was.
Even though she said she was 16, the man gave her a piece of paper with Kelly’s phone number on it, Stephanie said, adding that she “threw away the phone number.”
A year later, however, Stephanie said that when she heard Kelly was involved in an event at the Nike store near her summer job, she wanted to try to catch him and score an audition for her friend Katherine.
She pitched her friend during a conversation with Kelly inside his car—where she said the singer told her “he likes to cuddle and asked if I would be OK with that.”
Less than a week later, she said, she met Kelly at his studio in Chicago but had to wait hours in a small room before seeing him. After some “chit chat,” Stephanie said that the pair had sex.
“He said he wanted me to call him ‘Daddy,’” Stephanie said about the initial sexual encounter.
Soon after that encounter, the witness testified, she told Kelly that she was 17, to which the singer that “that’s OK.” During their relationship, Stephanie said that she endured Kelly’s volatile personality—which she described as either “nice [and] charming” or “controlling [and] intimidating.”
“He put the fear of God in me very quickly,” she added.
Stephanie said that in the winter of 1999, she ultimately stopped the relationship, during which she said Kelly forced her to participate in several sex tapes.
“I felt used and humiliated and degraded. I just didn’t want to be abused anymore,” she said.
Asked on the stand why she would never forget R.Kelly’s behavior even though it was almost three decades ago, Stephanie broke down before explaining: “because it was the lowest time of my life.”
“I have never been treated like that before or since. He humiliated me, degraded me, he scared me. I’ll never forget the way he treated me,” she said.
She added that before taking the stand, she had never publicly spoken about the abuse—and never will again.
Prosecutors have said that Kelly abused at least six women and girls, four of whom were minors when he first had sexual contact with them. The singer is also accused of bribing an Illinois government employee in 1994 with $500 to obtain a fake document to marry “Princess of R&B” Aaliyah—who was just 15 at the time.
Prosecutors have also alleged that Kelly had sexual contact with at least two John Does when they were minors—though he is not charged for those encounters. Kelly allegedly met John Doe 1 in December 2006 at a Chicago McDonald’s. The second John Doe, who Kelly met when the individual was 16 or 17, was also allegedly forced to have filmed sex with the singer and several of his girlfriends.
Jane testified this week that Kelly also had “groomed” at least one male, whom she only knew by the name “Nephew.”
“[R. Kelly] said that he had been grooming Nephew since he was young like me,” Jane said, adding that she was forced to have sex with him on several occasions as “punishment.”
The Grammy-winning singer has denied the allegations and his defense team have indicated that their client’s accusers are simply disgruntled exes with “an agenda.”