FILE PHOTO: Jerhonda Pace, who is pregnant, takes the oath as singer R. Kelly attends Brooklyn's Federal District Court during the start of his trial in New York, U.S., August 18, 2021 in a courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
August 19, 2021
By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A key prosecution witness against R. Kelly at his sex abuse trial testified on Thursday that the R&B singer videotaped their sexual activity when she was 16 and insisted she dress like a Girl Scout.
Jerhonda Pace, 28, one of the first women to publicly accuse Kelly of sexual abuse, spoke during her second day of testimony in Brooklyn federal court, the first of many expected prosecution witnesses against the 54-year-old Kelly.
The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment accusing him of dominating and demanding absolute commitment from women and girls he abused in a two-decade racketeering scheme.
Prosecutors said the three-time Grammy winner, whose songs include “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” used an entourage of managers, bodyguards and others to recruit victims, and threatened to blackmail them if they fled.
Pace is one of six alleged victims named in the indictment.
Four were minors at the time of the alleged abuse, including Pace and the singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when Kelly married her. Aaliyah died in a 2001 plane crash. Kelly was charged in 2019.
Pace had testified on Wednesday that the abuse included a requirement she abide by “Rob’s rules,” such as seeking permission to go to the bathroom, acknowledging Kelly when he entered a room and referring to him as “Daddy.”
The married mother of four also said she had contracted herpes, a disease that prosecutors have said Kelly knowingly transmitted.
Pace told Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes on Thursday that Kelly sometimes wanted her to wear pigtails for their encounters and “dress like a Girl Scout,” yet admonished her to tell everyone she was 19.
On cross-examination, Deveraux Cannick, a lawyer for Kelly, tried to show Kelly did not realize Pace was underage, despite her testifying he saw her ID card listing her age as 16.
Pace admitted on Thursday to signing a settlement agreement with Kelly that said she had not shown him the card.
“I didn’t see the agreement before I signed it,” she said.
After the prosecution resumed questioning, Pace read from a January 2010 journal entry where she wrote that Kelly had choked and had sex with her the last time she saw him at his Chicago home.
“Rob slapped me three times, and said if I lied to him again it’s not going to be an open hand next time,” Pace read.
Defense lawyers have argued in court papers and at trial that Kelly’s accusers were embellishing their accounts or lying in order to profit or extract revenge after their relationships didn’t work out as they had planned.
After Pace finished testifying, Kris McGrath, who said he had been Kelly’s doctor for 25 years, told jurors that he “100%” believed the singer had herpes, prescribed treatment as early as 2007 and urged him to tell his sexual partners.
The trial is the culmination of years of suspicions and accusations against Kelly, many discussed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” and nearly four years after the start of the #MeToo era.
Kelly could face life in prison if convicted. He also faces sex-related criminal charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in Brooklyn, New York; Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Cynthia Osterman)