The last time Jerhonda Pace went to R. Kelly’s house in 2010, the teenager got into an argument with the Grammy-winning star about who she was texting.
“I went to Rob’s house and Rob called me a silly bitch,” Pace wrote in her journal entry about the Jan. 23, 2010 encounter, which the 28-year-old emotionally read out aloud in court on Thursday.
That same meeting, she told jurors a day earlier, ended with the R&B singer slapping her at least three times before putting his hands on her throat and choking her until she passed out.
On Thursday, the journal entry added excruciating new detail to the story of the first witness in the federal racketeering and sex-crime trial against the disgraced music star.
“Rob slapped me three times. He said if I lied to him again, it’s not going to be an open hand next time. He spit in my face and in my mouth and choked me,” Pace wrote back in 2010.
After being physically attacked until she ultimately passed out, Pace wrote, she had oral sex with the then-43-year-old singer before ultimately leaving him for good.
“I became fed up, and I went home and confessed,” she read out loud in court before asking to take a break while clutching a used tissue.
As the first accuser to take the stand, Pace is one of at least five women who were expected to testify during proceedings against the once-revered Grammy-winning singer and producer.
Also among the horrifying testimony Thursday: R. Kelly recorded himself having sex with Pace in a home studio outside Chicago called “The Cabin,” during which he insisted she dress up as a young girl, she said.
“He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a girl scout,” Pace told jurors. “He recorded us having sexual intercourse.”
The woman previously told jurors she had a six-month relationship with Kelly when she was 16. She said the relationship mostly consisted of sexual encounters at his Olympia Fields, Illinois, mansion, and quickly turned controlling after Kelly established a series of bizarre rules.
“I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone I was spending time with him,” Pace said on Wednesday when describing her relationship with the singer. “I had to call him daddy. I had to wear baggy clothes. I couldn’t leave where I was without permission. I wouldn’t eat without his permission. I wouldn’t even go to the bathroom without his permission.”
The length of time that it took for Kelly to grant permission was also based on his mood, Pace said. “When I was on his good side,” she said, getting permission took about five minutes. But when Pace landed on his bad side, she said it took Kelly hours—and sometimes days—to allow her to use the bathroom.
“The longest time [to get permission to use the bathroom] was three days,” Pace told jurors on Thursday.
The relationship between the teenager and Kelly ended in January 2010 after the pair got into the fateful argument—and Kelly got so angry he attacked her, she said.
Kelly, 54, is charged in New York with a nine-count indictment, including racketeering based on sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, and forced labor. He is also charged with violations of the Mann Act, which bars the transport of people across state lines for sex.
The charges stem from alleged abuse against at least six women and girls, four of whom were allegedly minors when Kelly first slept with them. At least two also contracted herpes from the singer—including Pace—after he knowingly exposed them to the disease, according to prosecutors.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. His defense team has argued that their client’s accusers had consensual relationships with the singer—and that the ones who testify are liars who “have an agenda.”
On Wednesday, Pace testified she first met Kelly in 2008 outside a Chicago courtroom—where he was on trial for child pornography charges. Kelly was eventually acquitted of those charges after less than a day of deliberation.
Initially lying about her age, Pace said she first went to Kelly’s house in May 2009 after one of his tour managers invited the teenager and her friend to a party. While she was only at the party for less than 30 minutes “because the music was loud,” Pace said Wednesday, she and Kelly exchanged numbers.
Days later, Kelly invited the teenager back to his home and asked her to bring a bathing suit for his indoor pool. Pace said on Wednesday that during the incident, the singer asked her “walk back and forth and remove my bathing suit as I did it.”
The encounter quickly turned sexual, Pace told jurors, when Kelly performed oral sex on her. Afterward, she said she felt the need to tell Kelly she was underage because she felt what happened “wasn’t right.”
“I was uncomfortable about the situation and I knew I lied about my age so I wanted him to know my age,” Pace said Thursday during cross-examination, admitting she did not feel discomfort with the incident until after it turned sexual.
Prosecutors said that soon after the meeting, the teen was forced to provide collateral. Among the collateral: false letters that she stole $100,000 in jewelry and that she worked—and got subsequently fired—for Kelly. Neither claim was true.
Kelly’s defense team on Wednesday, however, portrayed Pace as a “superfan” who was “completely enveloped” by the singer and went out of her way to meet him.
“She skipped school, lied to her mother,” defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker told jurors. “She possessed a special passion for Mr. Kelly.”
Becker claimed that Pace was a “self-proclaimed liar” and urged the jury to remember that her “credibility will be an issue.”
During cross-examination on Thursday, defense attorney Deveraux Cannick also tried to imply that Pace was a liar—making her repeat several times that she lied about her age and profited from a self-published book.
In one particularly rough line of questioning, defense attorneys slammed Pace for implying Kelly never told her he had herpes—and showed her a February 2019 interview she had with authorities in which she said she was told, by Kelly, that herpes “has been traveling around since the late 90s.”
“Daddy’s not doing too good. Have you ever heard of herpes?” Kelly told Pace, according to the interview transcription Cannick read aloud in court. In the interview, Pace told investigators that he also told her in the July 2009 conversation to “look down there to make sure [the virus] wasn't traveling.”
According to Cannick, Pace told investigators that Kelly then proceeded to inspect her vagina with his fingers to see if she contracted the incurable virus. And, the attorney added, the singer told her that she could tell people she got the virus from him.
The interview, which Pace admitted to remembering in part, appeared to contradict testimony on Wednesday in which she claimed Kelly never told her he had herpes during their relationship.
Dr. Kris G. McGrath, a professor at Northwestern University and Kelly’s former primary care doctor, testified Thursday that he began prescribing the singer medication to treat herpes symptoms no later than 2007.
The doctor told jurors that he first became aware of the possibility Kelly might have herpes much earlier, after a June 5, 2000, visit. Over the years, McGrath said, he called in countless prescriptions for Kelly.
“So often that I memorized the phone number of that Walgreens,” McGrath said.
The doctor later admitted that while Kelly had health insurance, the singer did not pay for his medical services over the 25-year period they worked together.
But, McGrath said, he did attend several parties and studio sessions, and at least a dozen of Kelly’s concerts across the country, sometimes on the singer’s dime.