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R. Kelly walks with supporters outside courthouse

R. Kelly walks with supporters out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday morning, June 6, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin

Woman testifies R. Kelly sexually abused her ‘hundreds’ of times when she was underage

The alleged victim who declined to testify against R&B superstar R. Kelly during his original criminal trial 14 years ago finally took the witness stand Thursday in a dramatic, highly anticipated moment in Kelly’s new trial in Chicago’s federal court.

The now-37-year-old woman, referred to as Jane, had limited obvious interaction with Kelly as she testified in a white suit in the largest courtroom of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Kelly was seated in the well of the courtroom, with his attorneys.

Jane explained to the packed courtroom how she had “uncountable …hundreds” of sexual encounters with Kelly after she asked him to be her godfather when she was around the age of 13.

At one point, a prosecutor asked Jane to identify Kelly in court. She looked in his direction and identified him as a man wearing a navy blue blazer. When asked to give more detail, Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean interrupted —calling out, “so stipulated,” —and agreed that Jane had identified the singer.

Bonjean seemed agitated through much of Jane’s testimony, repeatedly objecting and asking a prosecutor to clarify time frames. She insisted, “the details are important.”

Still, it meant that jurors heard repeatedly that Jane was around 14 to 16 years old during much of the alleged conduct.

Meanwhile, Kelly seemed to focus on documents in front of him and was engaged with his lawyers. He appeared to swing his feet at times —with one foot out of his shoe —and at one moment swayed in his seat.

A prosecutor is expected to continue to question Jane following a lunch break in the trial.

During Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial in state court, prosecutors showed video allegedly depicting the R&B star performing sex acts on Jane at Kelly’s Lake View mansion. Then, she refused to testify, and she and her parents denied any improper conduct by Kelly. The trial ended with Kelly’s acquittal.

Prosecutors now allege Kelly and co-defendant Derrel McDavid conspired to cover up Kelly’s illicit relationship with Jane.

Jane said she met Kelly when she was 12 or 13, when the singer attended a gospel concert at her church, and was introduced by her aunt, Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards. A budding R&B singer who fronted a band made up of her cousins, Jane was thrilled to meet Kelly, who at the time was nearing the peak of his stardom.

Soon after, Kelly attended a performance of her group and gave her a glowing critique.

“It made me feel accomplished,” she said, speaking softly. “It made me feel happy that such a successful person was saying I was gifted. I was excited.”

One day, during a session at Kelly’s recording studio, her aunt encouraged Jane to ask Kelly to become her “godfather.”

“She told me that I should ask him to be my godfather and I should sit on his lap and rub his head and ask him to take that role in my life,” Jane said. Kelly agreed, and Jane said her parents “thought it was cool.”

In the weeks that followed, she said her parents and aunt supervised her time with Kelly less and less, while Kelly began shifting their conversations to sex. At the age of 14, she was allegedly having phone sex at the singer’s behest, and one night in the “wee hours” after a recording session, Kelly groped her on a couch at the studio.

She and Kelly had sex for the first time when she was 15, and in the years before she turned 18, they had sex “hundreds” of times, Jane testified. Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng how many times, Jane said softly, “innumerable times … like, uncountable.”

Kelly would allegedly “crush” on Jane’s friends —also around the age of 15 —and asked Jane to solicit them to join in group sex.

Federal prosecutors allege Kelly convinced Jane’s family to lie to investigators and sent them on a month-long trip overseas as detectives were probing allegations after a VHS tape of Kelly with the girl surfaced in the early 2000s.

Prosecutors outlined their case against the 55-year-old singer and his two co-defendants, former manager McDavid and ex-employee Milton “June” Brown, in blunt terms during opening statements Wednesday.

“The defendant, Robert Kelly, had sex with multiple children,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien said. “He made videotapes of himself having sex with children. And these two defendants, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, knew about it.”

Kelly is accused of making multiple videotapes of himself engaged in sex acts with underage girls.

Bonjean noted in her opening statement that Jane and her family had for more than two decades denied that the singer had done anything inappropriate with her. Bonjean also alleged that several other prosecution witnesses had tried to blackmail Kelly.

Prosecutors “waited decades to bring this case in a mob justice climate where hashtag movements tell us what we should and should not believe,” Bonjean said.

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