Victim known as “Jane” was heard repeatedly apologizing to disgraced singer in audio from the footage in court
Chicago, IL — R. Kelly’s alleged underage sexual assault victim, known under the pseudonym Jane and central to his child pornography federal trial in Chicago, was heard apologizing to her alleged abuser multiple times in more than one videotape clip submitted as evidence by the prosecution on Friday. The graphic videotapes were shown to jurors on Friday at Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, where the tape — featuring clips from three different videos — was not seen by the public or media. Instead, audio was heard in the courthouse.
Kelly is facing multiple charges of coercing five minors into sex acts, and several charges related to producing child pornography. He and co-defendants Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown are also charged with receiving child pornography as part of an alleged effort to recover missing tapes that allegedly show Kelly engaged in sex acts with minors. Additionally, Kelly and McDavid are facing obstruction of justice charges tied to allegations that they paid off people who knew about Kelly’s alleged abuse, and tried to impede the 2008 child pornography investigation into Kelly. All three men have pleaded not guilty.
On Thursday, Jane, who was Kelly’s goddaughter, identified herself as the person on the tapes shown on Friday, and said she was 14 years old when they were filmed. On Friday, Jane’s youthful-sounding voice could be heard on the tapes referring to her “14-year-old” body, including her breasts and other genitalia, during several points while some 17 clips from three separate videotapes were presented in court. Kelly could be heard affirming her age in some of the clips.
In one clip, Jane is instructed by what appears to be Kelly to turn around and “get on her knees.” “Daddy, do you still love me?” she is heard to be asking. In another clip she is told “don’t move” and that “I’ll hit you really hard on your ass.” Elsewhere, she is heard saying “I’m sorry” to her alleged sexual abuser several times as the tapes played in the courtroom.
A handful of the clips played on Friday were the focus of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, in which the singer was acquitted (Jane did not testify in the 2008 trial, a major factor in his acquittal, jurors in that trial would later say.) While the clips played, Kelly often conferred with his counsel and looked down at the table where he sat.
It was a chaotic leadup on Friday to the playing of the tapes, with Kelly supporters lining up hours earlier to attend court as the trial has progressed, as well as prosecutors reiterating their request to have U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber clear the courtroom of the public and media on the basis that the tapes were allegedly child pornography. Leinenweber did not agree and instead obscured the video screens depicting the videotapes from the public and media’s view in the gallery as jurors and the legal teams were allowed to watch.
Earlier in the day, cross examination of Jane, who testified on Thursday, commenced from Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, who illustrated via a series of texts allegedly sent from Jane to Kelly that the two had allegedly remained in contact through April 2019. Bonjean also pointed out that her client did not always respond to Jane’s texts. In February 2019, shortly after the documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired, Jane allegedly texted to Kelly, “You need to call me right away or I’m making decisions on my own.” Bonjean asked if this was a means for Jane to receive payment to keep quiet, which Jane denied. “The decision I was going to make was to cooperate with the authorities because I no longer wanted to carry his lies,” she said.
Bonjean also brought up restitution, which Jane is apparently entitled to should Kelly be convicted, but Jane said she had not decided whether she would pursue that. Later, Bonjean suggested that Jane’s counsel had negotiated an immunity deal, which covers her for “anything.” Jane calmly stated that regardless, “I’m telling my truth.”
Another series of texts Bonjean brought up were ones exchanged between Jane and then Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krull, suggesting they had an overly friendly relationship. On redirect, prosecutors worked to establish that the text exchanges were about scheduling leading up to the trial.
Bonjean also queried Jane about the original tape, which reporter Jim DeRogatis then at the Chicago Sun-Times received, which eventually led to the 2008 trial. Bonjean asked if Jane’s aunt Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards supplied the tape. “To my understanding, yes,” Jane said. Later, Jane acquiesced to Bonjean’s assertion that Edwards appeared to initially foster Kelly and Jane’s relationship when she suggested Jane ask Kelly to become her godfather when she was 12 or 13. “She knew what she encouraged me to do,” Jane said.
Edwards, however, has maintained that she has been trying to protect her niece, as she claimed in DeRogatis’ book Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly.
On Thursday, Jane testified that she was the girl being sexually abused in the video that was at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial (he was acquitted on all charges), alongside other clips. On Wednesday, after opening statements, retired Chicago detective Daniel Everett testified to that claim, saying he recognized Jane in the notorious tape — which he received from DeRogatis in February 2002 — from an initial investigation into abuse allegations against Kelly two years prior. In 2000, Jane had denied being abused by Kelly, with her parents backing up that claim. Prosecutors have alleged that Kelly and his associates paid off Jane and her family to cover up the videotapes.
The four videos central to the new trial — some of which were played for jurors on Friday — were filmed when Jane was 14 years old, per testimony. She said the sexual acts took place at Kelly’s then-home, his recording studios, on tour buses, and at hotels.
On Friday, one of Brown’s attorneys also cross-examined Jane, appearing to try and establish that their client did not have knowledge of Kelly’s alleged cover-ups of his relationships and rather was just doing what he was told as an employee.
Friday’s testimony also included testimony from Bettye Allwang, Director, Exploited Children at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who testified that video footage involved in the case had been part of a distribution report filed at the agency, and Customs and Border Protection’s John Cichy, who discussed travel manifests involving Jane, her parents, and Brown.