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‘Terrified, ashamed, humiliated’ by R. Kelly, woman testifies

Kelly called himself a “genius” who should be able to do whatever he wants, a woman testified on Friday.

BROOKLYN (CN) — Stephanie was 16 years old the first time she met R. Kelly. Standing alone at the counter of the “Rock n Roll McDonald’s” in Chicago, with the singer seated in a nearby booth, one of his associates approached her. 

“A man came up to me and he asked my age,” she said. “I told him I was 16.” 

That wasn’t a problem for the associate, who gestured toward Kelly and asked if Stephanie was familiar with him. He then handed her a slip of paper with Kelly’s phone number on it. 

After consulting with her then-boyfriend, Stephanie threw out the paper. But she met the singer again a year later at a Nike store. The young theater student wanted to approach Kelly to ask if he could help her friend, an aspiring singer. 

“Mr. Kelly was coming out of the store as I was walking in, so it was the perfect opportunity to get his attention,” she said. 

Kelly said he remembered Stephanie, and asked her to continue the conversation in his car, where he said he could arrange to meet with the girl’s friend, but wanted to “get to know me” first. 

“He also said he likes to cuddle,” she recalled on the stand. 

Kelly invited her to his studio, where they had sex during their first encounter. Stephanie was 17; Kelly was 32. 

Now 54, the former R&B singer is on trial in federal court in Brooklyn, charged with racketeering and Mann Act violations. Rumors of sex abuse have followed Kelly for decades. In 2008, he was found not guilty of child pornography charges in Chicago. 

After their first sexual encounter, “I remember him asking about my age,” Stephanie said in court on Friday. “When I said I was 17, he said it was fine.” 

Later, Kelly said he wanted to video tape them having sex.

“I didn’t feel like I had a choice,” she said. 

The two went to Kelly’s home in Linkin Park, and he filmed himself having sex with the minor and putting a dildo in her mouth, she testified, breaking into tears on the stand. 

Stephanie, who said she had already been the victim of sexual abuse before her first interaction with Kelly, described a duality within the singer and said he scared her. 

“He was one of two ways: he was either very nice, charming and jovial,” she said. “Or he was very controlling, intimidating. He would raise his voice at me. He could put the fear of God in me very quickly.”

When they would have sex, Kelly humiliated her and directed her every move, she said. 

“He orchestrated the sounds that I could make,” and would “position my body in a way, and I would comply.” 

That included Kelly telling her to stay in a certain posture, then leave the room, ordering her to remain in place. 

“I would just be completely naked with my butt in the air, waiting for him to come have his way.” She waited “sometimes for hours, she said, and if she had changed positions when he returned, he would ask, “what the fuck?” 

Once, after Kelly played basketball in downtown Chicago, he ordered her to give him oral sex in the back seat of a car while two other people, a driver and a passenger, sat in the front, Stephanie testified. 

“It was really disgusting because he had just played basketball for an hour,” she said, and felt “ashamed” because “that’s something that should be done in private.” 

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At a Chicago restaurant called Houston’s, Stephanie ate with Kelly and rappers Boo and Gotti. The men conversed, but Stephanie did not join in. 

“I wasn’t meant to speak to any other man besides Mr. Kelly,” she explained. 

But girls her age became Kelly’s topic of conversation.

“He mentioned that he likes young girls and that people make such a big deal out of it,” Stephanie said. 

“Even look at Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s a genius and I’m a genius,” she recalled Kelly saying, referring to the fact that rock and roll musician Lewis had married his third wife when she was 13 years old. “We should be allowed to do whatever we want. Look at what we give to this world.”

The “strangest part,” Stephanie said, was that the others at the table didn’t bring up the topic; Kelly did. “It just came out of the blue.” 

Stephanie said she cut off her ties with Kelly after a long weekend in Orlando that Kelly had invited her to, but then ignored her until the last day, when he picked her up and brought her to a studio to film them having sex. 

“I performed oral sex on him while he held the camera,” she said, filming her profile. “I felt used and humiliated and degraded, and I just didn’t want to be abused anymore.”

Stephanie said she tried to get the recordings Kelly had made of the two having sex, or have them destroyed, but was unsuccessful. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata asked Stephanie, as she broke down on the stand and buried her head in her hands, if she had ever before spoken publicly about her experience with Kelly. 

“No, I have never done that,” Stephanie said. She said she has not watched or read about Kelly’s sex abuse allegations because she did not want to remember what happened to her. 

"That was the lowest time of my life. I have never been treated like that before or since," she said. "He humiliated me, he degraded me, he scared me. I'll never forget the way he treated me."

Earlier in the day, jurors heard testimony from Tom Arnold, Kelly’s studio manager from 1998 until 2011. He worked at the singer’s Chocolate Factory recording studio, which was relocated from Chicago to Kelly’s mansion in suburban Olympia Fields. 

During that time, Kelly had famous visitors: Jay-Z, P. Diddy (then “Puff Daddy”), Shaquille O'Neal, Twista and Whitney Houson, he recalled. Defense cross-examination focused on the celebrity guests and pointed out that some of the “rules” Kelly imposed could have protected them, in addition to Kelly’s privacy. 

But Kelly wanted “a level of control” around his affairs, Arnold explained. 

He described Kelly’s Olympia Fields home and studio, where alleged victims say they came to visit Kelly but had to follow strict rules, including not being allowed to leave their designated rooms without prior permission. 

Kelly’s home had an aquarium with sharks, themed rooms like a “mirror room,” a home movie theater, indoor pool and several recording studios. In the yard was a standalone log cabin, and a detached garage with a boxing ring inside. 

Female guests of Kelly may be brought to any of those rooms upon their arrival, Arnold said — but if he was transporting guests, he was not even allowed to look at them. In the car, he would flip up his rear view mirror to avoid catching a glance. 

Guests were not supposed to wander around, Arnold testified, and staff made sure to avoid contact. 

“We’d always scatter as soon as somebody stepped out of the house,” he said. “If it was a female guest, we’d just clear out.” 

Visitors also had to sign confidentiality agreements saying they would not discuss, record or photograph anything that happened at the Chocolate Factory. 

While on tour or traveling with Kelly, Arnold said that he and other employees and friends carried slips of paper printed with Kelly’s phone number, and handed them out to people — women and girls, according to prior testimony — that Kelly was interested in contacting. 

“A lot of people carried the paper,” Arnold said. 

The end of Arnold’s employment with Kelly came after the singer docked the manager’s entire paycheck because he had booked a last-minute Disney VIP tour led by a male tour guide. 

Fines were not uncommon, Arnold said, for reasons like being late to video shoots or missing phone calls. Once, he said, “we were all fined because someone ate his doughnuts.” 

Kelly’s trial will continue next week in Brooklyn.

Follow Nina Pullano on Twitter

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