Home > Article > R. Kelly's sex-trafficking trial: Here's everything that's happened so far

R. Kelly's sex-trafficking trial: Here's everything that's happened so far

R. Kelly's trial is back in federal court in New York, after 12 days of testimony by witnesses alleging graphic sexual abuse by the R&B star against women, girls and some men. R. Kelly's sex-trafficking trial: Here's everything that's happened so far

Kelly, 54, faces multiple sex-trafficking and racketeering charges dating back decades and involving six complaining witnesses, including the late singer Aaliyah, called Jane Doe No. 1 by prosecutors, who died in a 2001 plane crash.

The government accuses Kelly of leading "a criminal enterprise" of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped Kelly to recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography, and to cross state lines for that purpose.

Kelly is also accused of knowingly infecting some accusers with a sexually transmitted disease, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and producing child pornography.

The star has repeatedly denied accusations that he preyed on women throughout his 30-year career, and his lawyers have portrayed accusers as groupies who are lying about their relationships with him. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial resumed Thursday after taking three days off for Labor Day and Jewish holidays.

Here's everything that's happened in the explosive trial so far.

The R. Kelly trial shocks us: Here's what shouldn't

Jerhonda Johnson Pace alleges assault, provides shirt with DNA that matches R. Kelly

The first of the six complaining witnesses to take the stand was Jerhonda Johnson Pace, who previously shared her story in the Lifetime docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly." In court, she alleged she had sex with the singer when she was 16, although she initially told him she was 19, which is over the age of consent.

Pace testified she had to be granted permission by the singer to use the bathroom and that Kelly recorded their sex sessions, later showing the recordings to her to point out where she could use "improvement." She said she "ended up contracting herpes" while she was with Kelly in 2009.

Kelly's primary care doctor, Kris McGrath, also testified under subpoena that he was the star's doctor for 25 years until 2019. McGrath said he diagnosed Kelly with genital herpes and told him to tell his sexual partners.

During her last day at Kelly's home, Pace said the R&B star spit on her, slapped her and choked her until she passed out after he flew into a rage because she texted a friend. After oral sex, she used her blue shirt to wipe semen from her face and saved it, she said.

First witness in R. Kelly's sex-trafficking trial alleges he gave her herpes as a teen

DNA expert Yongfei Wu examined Pace's shirt and told the jury that DNA found on the garment and DNA from a cheek swab from Kelly were "exactly the same." On cross-examination by Kelly's attorney Deveraux Cannick, Wu acknowledged he did not know the origin of the shirt or whether it had been, for example, stolen.

Under cross-examination by Cannick, Pace acknowledged she and her mother did not call the police when she returned home.

R. Kelly trial: Reluctant witness says she had friendship-turned-sexual relationship with star starting at age 15

More accusers allege Kelly gave them herpes, recorded them during sex, groomed minors

The second accuser, who called herself "Jane" on the stand, said when she first met Kelly, he pressured her for sex before an audition. She said she moved in with him while still a junior in high school and testified Kelly chastised or punished her for various reasons during their time together, including forcing her to have sex with another man while Kelly recorded it on an iPad. Another time, Kelly forced her to rub feces on her face and videotape it, she said. She was also coerced into getting an abortion in 2017 after Kelly said he wasn't ready to have a child with her, she said.

Jane also contracted herpes after sex with Kelly, who hadn't disclosed he had a sexually transmitted disease, she said while weeping. She also alleged Kelly made his girlfriends practice answering questions about him to better defend him during his volatile CBS interview with Gayle King.

In response, the defense presented letters in which the witness defended Kelly and accused her parents of using her sexual relationship to extract money from him. On re-direct questioning by the prosecution, she said Kelly told her to write those letters to her family.

The third complaining witness, who called herself "Stephanie," said in 1999 she sought out Kelly to help a friend with her singing aspirations. Kelly subjected her to a months-long abusive sexual relationship when she was 17, during which he frequently videotaped their sexual encounters, she testified. His sexual demands and videotaping of her in humiliating positions left her "disgusted" and feeling "less than," she told the jury.

R. Kelly trial: Witness says she wrote accusing letters to her parents at singer's behest

Another complaining witness, "Faith," said she was exposed to a sexually transmitted disease after meeting Kelly at a backstage after-party in 2017 when she was 19. She said the singer paid for her flights and hotel rooms to attend his concerts in cities where he demanded sex from her. When questioned by the prosecution, she said Kelly did not tell her he had herpes and did not wear condoms.

She testified that later, when she discovered bumps in her mouth, she went to a doctor and was told she had herpes. When she tried to contact Kelly, he didn't respond, she said.

The fifth complaining witness took the stand Thursday, alleging Kelly locked her in a darkened, windowless room for days and raped her while she was unconscious. The witness, who went to Kelly's Chicago-area home to interview him, said she spent two days in captivity before finally being given something to eat. After a few bites and sips, she alleges she passed out and awoke to find herself naked with "wet stuff" between her legs and Kelly pulling up his pants in the corner. What felt like another few days passed before she was finally given a flight home, she said.

Cannick pressed the witness on why it took several years for her to come forward with her accusations. He also noted her admission that she had a cellphone when she alleges she was locked in the room, yet did not call 911.

Kelly's former assistant and tour manager, Demetrius Smith, testified under subpoena and immunity from prosecution that he helped facilitate Kelly's illegal 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time.

R. Kelly trial: Details spilled on fake ID obtained for 15-year-old Aaliyah to illicitly marry singer

Other witnesses allege uncharged crimes

Though there are six complaining witnesses in the trial, the prosecution has also called witnesses alleging uncharged crimes in order to establish a pattern of alleged criminal behavior by Kelly.

These witnesses have included a male ("Louis"), who said Kelly performed oral sex on him in 2007 when he was a 17-year-old high school student, and a woman ("Addie"), who said Kelly raped her at age 17 following a performance in Miami in 1994.

Another uncharged witness - who testified during the trial's third week without using her full real name - told the jury she was 27 when she met Kelly through a mutual friend in 2001. She said when they began having sex, she told him she was worried about STDs, including AIDS.

When she asked him to use protection, "he just said no," she testified. She said the singer paid $200,000 to settle a lawsuit she brought forth accusing him of giving her herpes without disclosing he had it.

Another witness, now 31 and testifying as "Alexis," said she began a friendship-turned-sexual relationship with the R&B star that lasted on-and-off for nine years from the time she was 15.

R. Kelly's former employees paint controlling picture

Anthony Navarro, who worked for Kelly between 2007 and 2009 as an alleged "runner," described Kelly's home as a "strange place," testifying under subpoena that Kelly's "girls" and "girlfriends" had to "get permission for most things" under "Rob's rules."

Tom Arnold, another employee of Kelly's between 2003 and 2011, said one of his duties was to "hand out" small pieces of paper with Kelly's phone number to women in malls or at parties. Arnold also said Kelly would fine employees by docking their pay for infractions like failing to get the singer lunch, sleeping through a call or buying a sweatband for a female guest. He said he was once fined for not getting a female tour guide for Kelly at Disney World.

Federal prosecutors have also called other technical witnesses to testify about what they found during searches of devices such as iPhones, iPads and laptops. Chris Wilson, a computer forensic agent for the Department of Homeland Security, testified about three devices he examined from which he found a text message, sender unnamed, that read: "You're young and there's a lot of things you don't know. ... I want to groom you and be bonded with you," which was sent on Dec. 24, 2017.

The government is expected to rest its case the week of Sept. 13.

Contributing: Elise Brisco, Maria Puente and Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, and The Associated PressIf you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit hotline.rainn.org/online and receive confidential support. R. Kelly trial: Witness testifies R&B star forced sex acts, told her 'I'm a legend'