R. Kelly in 2019.
Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images
For more than two weeks, R. Kelly has had virtually no visible reaction to testimony in his Brooklyn federal-court trial for sex-crimes and racketeering charges, where witness after witness has accused him of sexual abuse in graphic, harrowing detail — with five of his six accusers saying they were minors when these incidents first occurred. Indeed, Kelly’s most animated gestures thus far came when he appeared to be chewing gum, his N 95-style mask bobbing up and down with his jaw movements. Kelly appeared unmoved even during testimony regarding his now-deceased child bride, Aaliyah.
Well, Kelly’s apparent stoicism came to a sharp stop Wednesday at two strangely telling moments: He started shaking his head, and put his face into his palms, when a witness said that he went to masturbate after unsuccessfully attempting sexual intercourse. Thus his first real reaction did not come during any of the times he was accused of horrific abuse — it came after a witness described a failed sexual overture. Later, Kelly indisputably grooved to his music when clips were heard in court.
All of this unfolded during testimony from Faith, the sixth accuser to take the stand against Kelly. Faith, who started testifying Tuesday, said that she met Kelly after he did a concert in San Antonio in March 2017. She was 19. Her sister, 36, was a fan of R. Kelly and had tickets. After arriving at the show, they moved to a section closer to the stage because they couldn’t see.
“Towards the end of the concert, two young ladies approached me and my sister with wristbands,” she said. They said that “he was having an after-party.”
“They had shirts with his face on it. On the back it said ‘STAFF.’”
After the show, Faith’s sister went backstage, while she went to retrieve her car from the valet. About an hour later, she met up with her sister, who was in a dressing room with Kelly. About 30 other people were in there, the overwhelming majority of whom were females. Kelly was not there.
When Kelly eventually walked in, he “just stood there.” All the females “got very excited” and took their phones out for pictures. Kelly said “no phones,” and they lined up to give him a hug. Faith’s sister stood in line and met him.
Kelly wound up approaching Faith, and told her to grab his hand. “Shortly after that, he handed me a piece of paper with two of his phone numbers.” Kelly told her, “Don’t make a big deal about it … don’t tell anyone.” He told Faith to text him later with a picture of herself, “so he wouldn’t forget” who she was.
“When we got in the car,” Faith recalled of the drive home with her sister, she revealed the number exchange. “Right away, she was super excited.”
“‘Out of all the girls in there, he looked at you,’” she recalled her sister saying.
“She was really more excited than me.”
When Faith got home, she texted Kelly her name and a selfie. When Faith woke up the next morning, she saw a text from him.
“He was very friendly, said he remembered me … that I was pretty,” Faith said. Kelly invited her to a local recording studio. She declined. They kept texting, then moved to phone calls, then FaceTime. In their initial conversations, “he seemed really down to earth — that’s what surprised me.”
He referenced himself as “Daddy” and told Faith to call him that. “He called me and said, ‘Hey, baby.’” Faith recalled that she didn’t call him daddy during that call. Kelly said, “‘Let’s try this again’ and hung up the phone.”
“He called me and said, ‘Hey, baby.’ I said, ‘Hey, Daddy,’ and he said, ‘Good girl,’” she said of the subsequent phone call.
Kelly showered her with compliments, saying, “I was beautiful, I was pretty — things a girl wants to hear, of course.” Kelly said “I love you” the first week of their correspondence.
“I said, ‘Really?’” She didn’t respond in kind until later on.
Kelly invited her to Chicago in April 2017, telling her, “It would be fun, I would get to see how it is, how he is on tour.” She contacted his assistant, as Kelly had instructed. The assistant sent Faith the wrong plane ticket. It was for someone else. She was “weirded out” and told Kelly as much.
“He kind of, like, laughed at me,” she said. Kelly said, “‘He always has friends around; this is who he is, a part of his lifestyle. If I wanted to hang with him, I couldn’t be insecure.”
Kelly invited her to New York in May 2017. He bought the plane ticket and accommodation. When Faith landed, she was told to go to a Hilton in Huntington. She ultimately made it to a theater in Westbury, where his assistant was waiting with tickets at will-call. She went backstage before the show.
“He came in after getting a haircut … full [of] energy,” she said. “He was like, ‘Give me a kiss.’” She gave him a peck. “He looked at me like, ‘Give me a tongue kiss. I may have to teach you how to kiss.’” After the show, Faith went back to the hotel. She went to bed wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt.
“I received a phone call,” Faith remembered. “He told me he was about to come up. A couple of seconds later, I heard a knock at my door.” Kelly complained that she was wearing clothes. “He tells me to turn on ESPN. He strips down from his waist down, only waist down.” He asked her to undress, and she disrobed to her panties and bra.
“Come rub on Daddy,” he told her.
“I start massaging his shoulder … he takes my wrist and put it on his penis. ‘Rub right here.’”
“I told him I wasn’t ready for sex,” she said. “He says, ‘Well, I’m at my best when I’m wanted.’” He told her to get on the bed and he was “rubbing on me,” then put his fingers in her vagina.
“It was like a poke,” Faith said. “He like, literally spread me open — it felt like I was being examined by an ob-gyn.
“I was just kind of like, ugh, I don’t know how to react to that.” He then gave her oral sex and told her to flip over. She did so and noticed there was an iPad. He started engaging in sexual intercourse with her.
“I said, ‘Are you going to use a condom?’ He said, ‘I don’t need a condom.’” The whole time, she said, he he told her what to say and what noises to make. After the sex ended, “he told me there was a lot to learn when it came to sex.”
Not long after, “He looked at me and then he said, ‘If you’re really like, 16, you can tell Daddy.”
“I was like, ‘I’m not 16, I’m 19.’” He then put on his clothes, grabbed the iPad, and left.
“I was embarrassed because I was like, Am I bad at sex?”
Kelly arranged for her to travel to see him on several more occasions. These visits included more sexual encounters, with Kelly pushing the envelope on his allegedly abusive treatment of her — such as by ramping up when she could move about and use the restroom. She said that Kelly took videos of them engaging in sex acts, as well as during nonsexual encounters.
During one visit in Los Angeles, Kelly frightened her into performing oral sex, she alleged. Kelly commanded Faith to do this after summoning her into a small room at a recording studio, where a gun was visible near him, and badgering her about her relationships with men.
She last saw Kelly in February 2018 in Manhattan. Faith said she wanted to see how things would go, given that alleged incident in California. She went to the Mondrian Hotel and met his assistant on the 18th floor as instructed. The assistant then led her into his suite. Kelly was not present. Faith, who had arrived early in the morning, went to bed.
Kelly knocked and she went to the door. When Faith expressed concerns that it was still early in the morning, he said, “You’re going to have to get used to my schedule.” Kelly told Faith to take off her clothes and pestered her about kissing him. He then told Faith to touch herself. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’”
“I follow him into the bedroom. He asked me to lie on my back,” she recalled. “He started to penetrate me … I was clenching on purpose. He was getting frustrated. He couldn’t get inside me. He was, like, grunting.”
“He’s telling me to relax — I’m not relaxing.” Kelly then sat up and went into the suite’s main room. “He got his iPad. He started jacking off — it was, like, high speed.” Faith said she could hear him watching a video with other female voices.
At this point during Faith’s testimony, Kelly shook his head and put his face into his palms. When the prosecution then asked, “Was the defendant able to fully penetrate you,” and Faith replied, “No,” Kelly’s chest moved in a way suggesting a sigh. Shortly thereafter, he dropped his head down. He kept shaking his head and pressed his fingers on the space between his eyebrows, then rubbed his forehead. He shook his head again a moment later.
In the hotel room, Kelly went to sleep. Faith heard “back-to-back” notifications on his phone. She saw a group-text chain with someone named “Mamma Bear.”
“I didn’t want to be a part of this,” she recalled thinking.
Kelly’s assistant knocked at the door, and he woke up. At this point during Faith’s testimony, Kelly shook his head again. Faith said that he provided her with what seemed to be an attempt at constructive criticism of their sexual encounter.
“Better luck next time,” he allegedly told her.
“I’m like, ‘You just pat my shoulder like you’re a coach and I’m a team player,’” she recalled.
“Because you are, and I’m a fucking legend. I’m not one of those n—-s you fuck with,” Kelly allegedly responded. He and his assistant left. Faith left and returned to Texas.
“Once I had got back to San Antonio, maybe like three days, I was coming down with a cold. On the fourth day of having a cold, my mouth had bumps everywhere,” she said. “My mouth was inflamed with bumps.” Faith sent a picture to her sister, who’s a nurse. “She said, ‘That looks like herpes.’” Faith went to a clinic and got tested for herpes. It was positive. Later, when Faith went to her gynecologist, she had a blood test and a urine test which also were positive for herpes.
“Did he tell you he had herpes?” the prosecution asked her several points during her testimony.
“Did he wear a condom?”
Faith said she had reached out to Kelly several times after her diagnosis but he “never” responded.
“I knew it was him.”
Faith said she and an attorney went to the Dallas police department to file a report in April 2018. (One of her visits to Kelly was in Dallas.) They had Faith call Kelly in front of them, with the thought of recording him saying something about his diagnosis, but he didn’t pick up. Kelly wound up calling her late at night. Faith managed to secretly connect her lawyer on the call, so they could record it. But Kelly wouldn’t talk about herpes.
Two other women previously testified that Kelly failed to disclose his herpes diagnosis before engaging in sexual contact with them — and that he infected them with the sexually transmitted virus. Several of the counts against Kelly involve the allegation that he exposed sexual partners to herpes without disclosing his diagnosis beforehand.
Part of prosecutors’ questioning of Faith involved providing documents that corroborated her allegations. Some of this included showing videos to jurors that he had taken of Faith. While the press and public — who are bizarrely confined to watching these proceedings in “overflow” rooms and not permitted in the courtroom, at the judge’s request — could not see the videos, short clips of Kelly’s music were clearly audible. (Because of the brevity of the clips, it’s unclear which of his songs were playing.)
When Kelly’s music was played, he bobbed his head. At one point, he did a sort of air piano with his fingers, grooving to his music in a sex-crime trial against him.
On cross-examination, Kelly attorney Deveraux Cannick repeatedly pressed Faith on why she kept seeing him, arguing through his questions that she had willingly decided to be around and participate in the sexual activities. “You made the decision?” he asked. “Your choice?” Cannick also asked Faith about her statements on The Paper Route podcast in mid-2020, in which she said: “I don’t like the word victim because I don’t feel like a victim” and “let’s be clear, I made a choice to be involved with that person.”
“You’re not a victim?” Cannick asked.
“Correct,” she said.
When prosecutors had a chance to question Faith again, they also asked about her language with regard to sexual misconduct. The prosecution pointed to another statement where Faith said she “didn’t like the term survivor.” The prosecution also addressed Cannick’s discussion of choice.
“The defendant also made some choices,” they said.
“The defendant chose not to tell you he had herpes, correct?”
“Correct,” Faith replied.
Kelly’s newly animated demeanor wasn’t the only peculiar twist today. Before testimony resumed, one of the prosecutors told the judge that “in the overflow rooms, there have been audible, negative reactions to testimony.”
One of the individuals viewing Kelly’s trial approached a witness’s family member as they were leaving court. The prosecutor said that this person “called the witness a stupid b-i-t-c-h.”