R. Kelly Lawyer Aims to Discredit Accuser Amid Tearful Testimony of Violence and Sexual Abuse

In this courtroom artist's sketch made from a video screen monitor of a Brooklyn courtroom, defendant R. Kelly, top left, listens as Jerhonda Pace, far left, testifies against the R&B star during the singer's sex abuse trial, Wednesday Aug. 18, 2021, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

An attorney for R. Kelly attempted to discredit one of the accusers leveling allegations of sexual abuse against the singer on Thursday, after she’d claimed he had slapped and choked her during what she described as their final sexual encounter more than 10 years ago.

Jerhonda Johnson Pace, the first witness testifying for prosecutors in Kelly’s long-delayed racketeering trial in New York, is among multiple women leveling claims of sexual abuse against Kelly. She claims she first met him when she was a 14-year-old fan outside one of his previous sexual-misconduct trials, and first had sex with him shortly after she turned 16.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Kelly attorney Devereaux Cannick on Thursday followed the defense’s stated strategy of portraying Kelly’s accusers as superfans. Cannick displayed photographs of a teenaged Pace walking beside Kelly outside the Leighton Criminal Court Building, smiling. He also asked what the Tribune described as “a series of extraordinarily detailed questions about what Pace said was her final sexual encounter with Kelly in January 2010. Did she fall down when he slapped her, Cannick asked? Which side of her face did he slap? Did it leave any marks or swelling? Did he slap her first or choke her? Where was she when he spat on her?”

In the second round of questioning, as Pace read from her journal, she broke down and began to cry, the Tribune reported.

“I went to Rob’s house and Rob called me silly, he called me a silly b——,” she read. “Rob slapped me three times and said if I lied to him again it’s not going to be an open hand next time … he spit on my face and in my mouth. He choked me during an argument. I had sex with him, oral sex with him, then I got fed up and I went home and confessed.”

She also told the jury that, on another occasion, “He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a Girl Scout.”

Cannick asked Pace if she was a groupie or a stalker or a liar, or if she had a sexual relationship with one of Kelly’s associates, and also questioned the veracity of her testimony because she was not wearing the loose clothing in the photos that she and others alleged he had demanded, or take photos of herself after Kelly allegedly struck and choked her, or that she went to civil lawyers with her claims instead of police. Pace previously testified that those attorneys discouraged her from bringing charges.

Later in her testimony, Pace claims that while she was confined to a room at Kelly’s mansion outside Chicago, at one point she was not allowed to use a bathroom for three days; other accusers have made similar allegations. However, Cannick noted that one of the rooms in which she was confined had a bathroom; that point was not resolved.

Cannick also had Pace read from a settlement agreement she had  struck with the singer, in which Kelly denied all wrongdoing and stated that she had presented him with an ID showing she was 19 at the time.

The testimony continued from Wednesday, when Pace, now 28, told jurors of a sexual relationship she had with Kelly over the course of six months in 2009 and 2010. She claimed his abuse escalated as the relationship progressed, at times extending to violence and “rules” that included wearing certain closed and being confined to rooms at his homes. (Head here for a timeline of the events leading up to Kelly’s New York trial.)

In the coming days, the jury is expected to hear details about Kelly’s brief, illegal marriage to Aaliyah and abuses other accusers allegedly suffered, including Azriel Clary, who had spoken in support of the singer until last year, when she left his apartment and joined those accusing him of abuse.

The trial is expected to several last weeks and has a maximum sentence of 10 years to up to life in prison, prosecutors said. When the New York trial concludes, Kelly faces multiple charges in Chicago, including sexual abuse, assault and witness tampering. He also faces charges in Minnesota.