After a few decades of delays and legal sidestepping, R Kelly’s much anticipated – and according to many – long-overdue trial is finally underway.
According to the Chicago Tribune, opening statements were presented from both the prosecutors and defense earlier today. The first witness testimony was also brought forth by Jerhonda Johnson Pace, who described in detail the sexual relationship she had with Kelly when she was just 16 years old. A once devoted fan, Pace explained that she told Kelly she was 19 at the time but because she felt uncomfortable after their first sexual encounter in the “game room” of his Olympia Fields mansion, she subsequently showed him her ID card to prove her real age.
“He asked me, ‘what is that supposed to mean?’” Pace, who is now 28, recalled. “He told me to continue telling people I was 19, and act like I was 21.” Kelly would then go on to allegedly “train” Pace on how to please him sexually and later demand that she abide by strict house rules which included no phones, no meeting up with a friend who also resided in the mansion at the time, the wearing of baggy clothes, and being instructed to look at him and greet him with a kiss whenever he entered the room or face physical or sexual abuse. Pace also alleged that Kelly took her virginity and ultimately gave her herpes.
“He began collecting girls and women like they were things, hoarding them like objects,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez said in opening statements Wednesday.
Kelly’s attorney Nicole Blank Becker tried to counter characterize her client as a sadist or a deviant, portrayed the singer’s accusers as women who just “want to make a name for themselves by accusing Kelly.”
“All of their stories, all of their explanations, they’re all going to sound kind of similar,” Becker said in part. “Using those buzzwords like, ‘I couldn’t eat, it was a cult,’ they’re amazing in the media. That is audience-grabbing.”