Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Prosecutors play R Kelly tapes as government case winds down

Published:Thursday | September 16, 2021 | 12:06 AM
R Kelly (left), listens during his trial in New York.
R Kelly (left), listens during his trial in New York.


Prosecutors, nearing the end of their case at the sex trafficking trial of R Kelly, played recordings for a New York City jury Wednesday they say back up allegations the R&B singer abused women and girls.

In court papers, prosecutors have described tapes of a profane Kelly threatening violence against victims during recorded rants in 2008.

Jurors listened to the recording in Brooklyn federal court using headphones. There was no audio for the press and public — already restricted by the judge to an overflow courtroom as a coronavirus precaution — making it impossible to know exactly what the panel was seeing or hearing or how it was reacting to it.

A video feed to the overflow courtroom showed Kelly not wearing the headphones that would have allowed him to listen in on the government’s latest evidence against him at a trial that began August 18.


On one of the 2008 tapes, an enraged Kelly can be heard accusing an unidentified woman of lying to him before beginning to assault her, according to a court document filed on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

“If you lie to me, I’m going to [expletive] you up,” Kelly says.

The star R&B singer is captured on another recording berating a second woman from Florida, identified as a ‘Jane Doe’ he accused of stealing a Rolex watch from him, the filing says.

“You better not ever … take from me again, or I will be in Florida, and something will happen to you,” he says. “You understand what I’m telling you?”

Prosecutors had planned to call the second woman as a witness. But they decided against it after she “started to have panic attacks and appeared to have an emotional breakdown” while listening to the tape in preparation for her testimony, the filing says.


It adds that the defendant bragged about having “cameras everywhere” in his Chicago studio, and other locations, that he used to keep an eye on his victims.

Kelly, now 54, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other charges accusing him of sexually abusing several women, girls and boys during his 30-year singing career. He has vehemently denied the charges, claiming that the women were groupies who wanted to take advantage of his fame and fortune achieved through hits like I Believe Can Fly.

On Tuesday, the judge indicated that she would grant the government’s request to use the tapes as evidence at the trial that began on August 18. There was no immediate response to a message seeking comment from Kelly’s defence team.

The request came a day after another witness testified that she saw Kelly in a “sexual situation” with R&B phenom Aaliyah around 1993 ,when she was only 13 or 14. The woman also told the jury that Kelly had sex with her when she was 15 — the latest in a series of accusers who say he sexually exploited them when they were underage.

The woman — a former backup performer for Kelly who testified not using her real name — described opening a door on Kelly’s tour bus to find him kneeling in front of Aaliyah and appearing to perform oral sex on the girl. She said she immediately shut the door and left without ever speaking to Kelly about the encounter.

The jury had previously heard a former Kelly employee testify how two fake IDs were used to clear the way for Kelly to marry Aaliyah after he began a sexual relationship with her and believed she had become pregnant. A marriage licence that was put into evidence falsely listed her age as 18; Kelly was 27 at the time.

Prosecutors say Kelly wanted to use the marriage, which was later annulled, to shield himself from criminal charges related to having sex with a minor and to prevent her from testifying against him.

Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 début album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

The trial is off today but will resume Friday when the government will likely rest its case. Kelly’s lawyers have indicated they will put on a defence case that will begin Monday.