The first man to accuse R. Kelly of sexual abuse testifies that the singer asked him what he was 'willing to do for music'

·6 min read
louis r kelly trial
John Doe "Louis" testifies during R. Kelly's sex-abuse trial in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Monday. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
  • A man testified on Monday in R. Kelly's trial that the singer sexually assaulted him when he was 17.

  • He said Kelly invited him to a studio but instead brought him to his home and performed oral sex.

  • The man testified that Kelly sexually assaulted him on numerous subsequent occasions.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The first man to publicly accuse R. Kelly of sexual misconduct testified on Monday at the singer's federal sex-crimes trial, saying Kelly sexually assaulted him repeatedly while he was a 17-year-old high-school student.

Testifying under the pseudonym "Louis," the man said he met Kelly in 2006 while working the overnight shift at a McDonald's drive-thru in suburban Chicago.

Kelly, who was 39 at the time, asked for the phone number of Louis' female manager and gave Louis a slip of paper with his own phone number to thank him, Louis said.

Louis, an aspiring R&B musician himself, texted Kelly - whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly - and was invited to one of the singer's studios to play some music he had worked on, he said.

But Louis didn't get very far.

"He let the song play for only five seconds and he said he didn't like it," Louis said.

Louis left the studio discouraged that "the king of R&B" wasn't interested in his music. But he continued to text Kelly and later saw him at a gym around the corner from the McDonald's where he worked in Markham, Illinois. Soon enough, he said, he was regularly invited to Kelly's home for parties and to play basketball with the singer.

'We're brothers now'

Kelly ultimately invited Louis to a studio at his home in Olympia Fields, another suburb of Chicago. But Louis said they met in a detached garage where Kelly had exercise equipment and a boxing ring, rather than in one of the studios the singer maintained in the main building.

"He asked me what I was willing to do for music," Louis said on the stand.

Louis rattled off ways he would assist Kelly, like carrying his bags. But Kelly appeared unreceptive, he said.

"He asked me if I had any fantasies," Louis said, then quoted Kelly as saying, "You never had fantasies about men?"

"I said no," Louis continued. "And then he crawled down on his knees and proceeded to give me oral sex. He zipped my pants down and he started doing it."

louis r kelly trial
Louis testified that Kelly sexually assaulted him. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have accused Kelly of numerous sex crimes, saying he directed people to produce women for sex and then abused them. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

The indictments identified over a dozen women and two men who prosecutors say Kelly sexually abused. Four of those women have already testified in Kelly's trial. All of them said they, too, had aspirations in the entertainment industry when they met Kelly.

On that first occasion Kelly performed oral sex, Louis told the singer to stop, he testified. After Kelly stepped back, he swore Louis to secrecy, Louis said.

"Don't tell anyone," Kelly said, according to Louis. "We're brothers now."

Louis said he continued to see Kelly, still hoping to be mentored for his music career. He said Kelly sexually abused him on subsequent occasions, recording those encounters on an iPad and camcorders and asking that he call him "daddy."

Other women who previously testified in Kelly's trial also said Kelly recorded their sexual encounters and demanded they call him "daddy."

Louis said that after additional encounters, Kelly's attitude toward him changed.

"As our relationship got stronger, he said I was like a brother," Louis said. "I was his 'little brother.'"

Louis tried to bribe another R. Kelly accuser so she wouldn't testify

Louis said he last saw Kelly in person in the late 2010s, in the hallway outside the singer's apartment in Chicago's Trump Tower. Kelly had summoned him there to talk, saying he needed "protection," Louis said.

In the hallway, Kelly told Louis to write a letter saying that someone planned to pay him to say he was in a homosexual relationship with Kelly, Louis said. Louis testified that the letter's content wasn't true.

"He gave me the notepad, and I wrote the letter," Louis said on the stand. "He told me word for word what to say."

Other witnesses also testified that Kelly had forced them to write false letters distorting their relationship with the singer, at times even falsely saying they'd stolen from him.

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Kelly and Thomas Farinella, his lawyer, in court on Monday. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Louis appeared uncomfortable while testifying. He spoke softly and haltingly, using few words when answering questions posed by Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes and Kelly's attorney Deveraux Cannick.

In August 2020, prosecutors accused Louis of attempting to bribe another witness not to testify against Kelly. Louis pleaded guilty to bribery in February and, facing a 15-year prison sentence, agreed to testify in the Brooklyn trial as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

In phone records included in the original charging documents, Louis suggested that Kelly would pay for the bribe. But on the stand, he testified that Kelly - in jail at the time - wasn't involved in the scheme and that he'd come up with it on his own. Prosecutors have not brought any charges against Kelly related to the bribery.

While cross-examining Louis, Cannick suggested he had an incentive to tell a story that maligned Kelly to fulfill the terms of his cooperation agreement.

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The defense attorney Deveraux Cannick cross-examining Louis. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

However, Cannick struggled to come up with factual discrepancies in Louis' story. He spent several minutes asking Louis why he testified that Kelly had opened the door to his Olympia Fields home on the day Louis said Kelly sexually assaulted him for the first time, when Louis had said at another point that a person named "Candy" handled security at the door. Louis said Candy simply wasn't there that day.

Louis testified that one reason he'd tried to bribe the other accuser was to help both of them. He said that he believed the woman might have recordings of sexual encounters with Kelly and that he hoped they would never see the light of day.

Despite his past, Louis said he still hoped to "make it in music." Geddes asked Louis the same question prosecutors asked other witnesses who said Kelly had promised to bolster their music careers: What, if anything, did the singer do to help?

Louis gave the same answer as every other witness.

"Nothing," he testified.

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