A 39-year-old woman identified as Sonya, testified in R. Kelly’s sex-crimes trial Thursday that she had been sexually abused by him when she was a radio station intern seeking an interview in 2003.
The accuser said she had met Kelly — whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly — at a mall in Salt Lake City and hoped to get an interview with him, but was denied the initial opportunity.
Instead she was given his number, and after a few conversations was invited to his studio in Chicago where she hoped to land the interview.
“I thought it would really just kick-start my career,” she told the jury.
When Sonya arrived at the studio, however, she said Kelly’s employees met her and collected information about her friends and family, then made her sign a confidentiality agreement, and locked her in a room. After more than two days with no food or water, Sonya said she was finally brought a meal, which she said made her feel drowsy and fall unconscious.
When she awoke, her underwear had been removed, her vaginal area was wet, and Kelly was in the corner “doing up his pants,” Sonya testified.
“I was sexually assaulted,” Sonya told the jury, when asked what she believed happened to her. “Someone was inside of me that wasn’t invited.”
Kelly is on trial in federal court in Brooklyn on charges of running a criminal enterprise where his employees recruited women and girls for the singer to have sex with and abuse. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Sonya never got her interview
At the time Sonya met Kelly, she was a single mother in her early 20s, just starting out in her radio career — something she’d been interested in since junior high, she said.
Kelly’s staff had arranged and paid for her flight to Chicago from Salt Lake City. While she missed the first flight, she got a later one that landed her in Chicago in the middle of the night.
After taking a taxi to Kelly’s music studio, “The Chocolate Factory,” staff at the front desk made a copy of her ID, looked though her luggage, and asked for the names and addresses of the last five people she had called with the cellphone she brought with her, she testified.
A staff member also asked her if she “needed protection,” which she initially didn’t understand, but then realized he was asking if she needed a condom. She told the man she “wasn’t here for that,” she said.
That’s when staff took her to a room, where she was told to wait for Kelly. When she realized the door locked from the outside, Sonya testified that she was “terrified” and “embarrassed.” She had banged on the door to be let out, but wasn’t, except to be escorted to and from a bathroom, she said.
Eventually, a staff member brought her Chinese food and a drink. After taking a few bites and a couple of sips, Sonya became “extremely full and tired,” before awaking to find her underwear on the arm of a sofa, and to see Kelly in the room.
“I didn’t know where I was at,” Sonya told the jury. “It made me feel like something happened to me. It felt like somebody or something had been inside of me.”
After quickly greeting Kelly, he left the room. A staff member later came in and told Sonya she was free to leave, after making her sign a second confidentiality agreement.
She never got an interview with Kelly.
Sonya shared her story on the 13th day of testimony in the trial, in which jurors have already heard from several other accusers and former employees of the singer — some of whom had already spoken publicly about their relationships with Kelly.
Sonya, however, had never shared her experience publicly until taking the stand on Thursday.
Kelly’s defense attorney Deveraux L. Cannick aggressively cross-examined the woman about her time in the studio, repeatedly having her admit that she didn’t report the “alleged rape” to police after being allowed to leave the studio, or calling 911 from inside the room from a cellphone she had. At one point, he asked her if the Chinese food she ate had MSG in it, which she said she didn’t know.
Sonya didn’t tell law enforcement about the experience until after the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary was released and she spoke with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.
When asked by the prosecution on redirect why she waited that long to report the assault, Sonya said she felt threatened by Kelly’s team, who had told her “Don’t fuck with Mr. Kelly,” before she was allowed to leave.
In addition to being unsure about the terms of the confidentiality agreements she signed, Kelly’s team had the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the “people I cherished most,” she said.
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