Accuser’s mother: R Kelly’s threats made her fear for her life
CHICAGO (AP) — A mother whose daughter, prosecutors say, R. Kelly was sexually abused from the age of 14, told jurors Monday at the singer’s federal trial that she lied to a state grand jury 20 years ago, in part because she and her husband felt threatened by Kelly and feared for their lives if they told the truth.
The mother, who used the pseudonym ‘Susan’, in court during the trial in Chicago, described how she, her husband and Kelly cried when parents confronted the Grammy winner at a hotel in the early 2000s to find out if he was abusing their daughter. She testified that they were surprised when Kelly told them, “You are with us or against us.”
She said she understood those words to mean “that they were going to hurt us if we didn’t do what they wanted us to do”. Among the directives from Kelly and an associate were that they had to lie that their daughter was not in a child pornography video and that they had to leave the country immediately for several weeks, she testified.
“We were very, very scared,” she told jurors.
She later added that she lied to the grand jury “because we feared for our lives and were intimidated”. She said she also feared for the well-being of her daughter, who warned her parents at the time that she could kill herself if they refused to do what Kelly asked them to do.
Kelly, 55, is on trial in his hometown on charges including producing child pornography, enticing underage girls for sex and obstructing justice by successfully rigging his 2008 child pornography trial in front of a state court, at which he was acquitted.
Kelly is already facing a 30-year prison sentence handed down by a federal judge in New York in June for his 2021 convictions for racketeering and sex trafficking.
Susan’s daughter, who went by the pseudonym ‘Jane’, was among the first prosecution witnesses when the trial began last week. Jane told jurors she also lied to the same grand jury before the 2008 trial when she said she was not the 14-year-old girl in a video with Kelly. Jane, now 37, told jurors last week that in fact she had been sexually abused hundreds of times by Kelly before she turned 18.
During an often contentious cross-examination on Monday, Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, repeatedly asked Susan if she really thought her life was in danger from Kelly or his associates.
“Nobody really threatened you, did they?” Bonjean asked.
“Yes, they did,” Susan replied.
Bonjean also questioned why, if Susan felt so threatened by Kelly, she and her family continued to mingle socially with Kelly for the next 20 years. She replied that Kelly was their only income for a period, paying her musician husband to work on Kelly’s recordings. She also said she was worried for Jane’s well-being if they cut ties with Kelly.
Jane’s husband, father, died last year, she told jurors.
During her cross, Bonjean pointed to Susan’s testimony that she lied to the Illinois grand jury, asking if she was “telling the truth now.” Susan said she was.
Prosecutors at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office chose in the mid-2000s to pursue the charges and bring the case to trial in 2008 despite what they knew would be a major obstacle: their inability to to call the girl in the video to testify.
After acquitting Kelly at the 2008 trial, some jurors told reporters they had no choice but to find Kelly not guilty because the girl – who was then in her 20s – did not took the witness stand to confirm that it was, in fact, her in the video.
Federal prosecutors in the ongoing trial have released excerpts from this and other videos they say show Kelly in his mid-30s sexually abusing a 14-year-old Jane.
Kelly has been followed for decades by allegations about her sexual behavior. The scrutiny intensified during the #MeToo era and after the 2019 release of the Lifetime TV docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm and find AP’s full coverage of the R. Kelly trial at https://apnews.com/hub/r-kelly.