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R. Kelly accuser tells jury she was unconscious during assault

After taking a few bites of food and sips of a soda, Sonja immediately grew tired. She recounted Thursday that she woke up to see R. Kelly, doing up his pants.

BROOKLYN (CN) — The trial of R&B star R. Kelly has begun treading into the suggestion that he or his associates drugged a victim, with one woman testifying Thursday that Kelly sexually assaulted her after she was held for days without food or water at his Chicago recording studio in 2003.

Kelly, 54, is accused of violating federal anti-racketeering law and the Mann Act, connected to an alleged sex ring that included knowingly giving victims herpes and a marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old. Kelly would have been 27. 

The singer was acquitted on child pornography charges more than a decade ago. As with other state and federal child pornography charges, Kelly's ongoing trial in the Eastern District of New York follows the release of the explosive Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which described decades of physical and sexual abuse. 

Identifying herself as Sonja, the witness testifying on Thursday said she was a 21-year-old radio intern at a local station in Salt Lake City when she met Kelly during a visit to the city. She repeatedly contacted him for an interview, and since Kelly wouldn’t agree to a phone interview, Sonja accepted an invitation to be flown out to Chicago. 

When she arrived at the studio, Kelly’s associates searched Sonja’s luggage and phone, and asked her for the names and addresses of people she had recently called. One asked if she needed condoms, catching her by surprise: “No, I’m not here for that,” she replied. 

Sonja was escorted to a windowless room with a table, chairs and couch. She was ordered not to talk to anybody or to leave the room, and signed a nondisclosure agreement. When she tried to open the door, she discovered it was locked from the outside. 

“I was scared, for one. I was ashamed,” she said, realizing that she was trapped. “I couldn’t even tell ya, it was so embarrassing.” 

Sonja waited. She repeatedly banged on the door and called the studio reception desk asking for food, water and to use the bathroom. She was escorted to the bathroom a few times, but wasn’t given any food until two and a half days into her stay, she recalled. Someone brought her Chinese food, which she ordered from a binder of menus in the room, and a soda. 

After just a few bites of food and sips of the drink, which was brought to her in an open cup, she began to feel drowsy. 

“I felt extremely full and tired,” she said. “I don’t remember how I got from my chair at the table to the couch.” 

When Sonja woke up, Kelly was in the room, and her underwear had been taken off. 

“I looked over to my right and saw Rob Kelly doing up his pants in the corner,” she said. “There was some wet stuff between my legs … and on my thighs.” 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez asked Sonja what she thought had happened. 

“It just made me feel like something happened to me. I know my body, I know when something’s not right,” Sonja said. “It felt like somebody or something had been inside of me.” 

Kelly and Sonja greeted each other and hugged. The singer left and did not return. Later, an associate said something had come up — and warned Sonja not to tell anyone what had happened, according to her testimony. 

“He said, ‘don’t fuck with Mr. Kelly,’” Sonja said. “It was like, OK, scary.” 

Having given Kelly’s associates her family’s information, including the address where her infant daughter was staying, Sonja complied. In fact, she had not spoken publicly about the assault until her court testimony, she said, and does not plan to do so again. It was the threats from Kelly’s associates, and fear of not being believed, that stopped Sonja from coming forward, she told defense attorney Deveraux Cannick during cross-examination. 

“After, according to you, you were raped by Mr. Kelly, did you go to the hospital?” asked Cannick, of the Aiello & Cannick. 

“No, I did not,” Sonja replied.

Cannick then asked if Sonja had called the police during the three days she was kept in the room — she had used a cellphone to call friends and to check on her daughter — or once she got home. “No, I didn’t, and I didn’t tell my family,” Sonja said. 

Since she was unconscious at the time, Sonja agreed that she could not say categorically that she had been sexually assaulted. On redirect, Melendez confirmed the facts that Sonja was sure of, including that she had underwear on before feeling suddenly fatigued. 

“I was sexually assaulted,” Sonja told Melendez when asked what she thought happened. “There was something in me that wasn’t something that I invited.” 

Also on Thursday, the jury heard testimony from a woman, Anna, who began a sexual relationship with Kelly after meeting him at age 19 or 20. Her introduction to the singer echoed what previous victim testimony has described: Kelly spotted her at a concert, sought her out, and sent an associate to get in touch. 

During a three-year relationship that began in 2016, Anna lived with Kelly at times along with several other women. She said she was directed to have sex with Kelly’s other girlfriends and with a man whom Kelly called “Nephew,” even though she did not want to. 

Like the other women and girls Kelly is accused of coercing and kidnapping, Anna said she was held to rules like having to wear baggy clothes outside the house, and having limited contact with the other girlfriends and men other than Kelly.

Breaking the rules resulted in punishments, like losing her phone — sometimes for days or weeks — or physical abuse, including spanking that left bruises and being slapped in the face. In one instance, Anna had to make a sexual video of herself that involved “bodily fluids;” a victim previously testified that she had to make a similar video involving feces. 

To protect Kelly, especially later on after new allegations against the singer surfaced, Anna had to write letters saying that she had started the relationship with the intent to extort him for money, something multiple other women and one male victim have said they were asked to do. 

Anna’s testimony will continue on Friday.

Follow Nina Pullano on Twitter

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