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R. Kelly’s longtime Chicago doctor revealed Thursday that the R&B singer was being treated for herpes in 2007 — more than two years before one of his accusers testified that he had passed the disease to her without warning.
The testimony of the doctor, Kris McGrath, at the singer’s criminal trial in Federal District Court in the New York City borough of Brooklyn came as Kelly faces a broad racketeering charge along with other charges. Prosecutors have accused the entertainer of knowingly exposing several people to the sexually transmitted disease.
McGrath, the singer’s doctor of about 25 years, testified that between 2007-19, Kelly was treated for herpes at least five times, often with yearlong prescriptions at a local Walgreens.
“It was so often that I had memorized the phone number to that Walgreens,” McGrath told jurors, before rattling off the 10 digits. There is no cure for the disease, and the doctor said he would have informed Kelly to notify any sexual partners that he had it.
But Jerhonda Pace, the first of Kelly’s accusers to testify against him in the decades of allegations he has faced, said that she had contracted the disease around 2009 — and was not warned beforehand that he had it.
When she told Kelly that she had symptoms of the disease, “He didn’t really react to it,” she testified. “He just said OK.”
The doctor’s revelations came on the second day of Kelly’s long-awaited criminal trial. Over the next four weeks, several accusers are expected to give firsthand testimony about sexual, physical and psychological abuse inflicted by Kelly — and about the roles that members of his inner circle played in maintaining that system of torment, all while the singer was at the pinnacle of his career.
But in their opening statements Wednesday, prosecutors said that key to several of his accusers’ testimonies would be their accusations that Kelly had unprotected sex with them without telling him that he had herpes.
McGrath said that he had first believed that Kelly could have had herpes in 2000. He had first begun to serve as the singer’s doctor around 1994, but did not charge him for his services, he said. (Instead, he testified, Kelly invited him to about a dozen concerts, sometimes flying him across the country and paying for his accommodations.)
One of the women at the center of the case against him, identified in court only as Faith, contracted the disease around 2018, after she met Kelly the year before at a concert and began having sex with him, prosecutors said this week. They said that Kelly did not disclose that he had herpes — and threatened to retaliate after she filed a lawsuit in part because of the herpes diagnosis.
The government is aiming to convince jurors that Kelly directed a decades-long criminal scheme, recruiting fans for sex. Prosecutors are focusing on his interactions with six women and girls, including Pace and R&B singer Aaliyah, whom he married when she was just 15 and who died in a 2001 plane crash.
Pace has long been at the forefront of the allegations against the artist. She was one of the first women to go public with her accusations, sharing her accounts in a 2017 BuzzFeed article that ushered in a fresh round of public outrage against Kelly just months before the height of the Me Too movement.
Since then, a damning Lifetime documentary, a campaign to boycott the artist’s music and a lengthy round of criminal investigations have thrown Kelly’s other relationships under intense scrutiny — ultimately leading to his charges in Brooklyn.
Pace posted a reflection on Instagram on Wednesday.
“We are one step closer to justice,” she wrote. “Testifying against my abuser was NOT easy, but it was a huge relief.”
She testified the following day that when she was 16, the superstar singer who was having sex with her wanted her to dress even younger.
“He wanted me to put my hair up in pigtails and dress like a girl scout,” Pace, 28, told jurors. She said that Kelly often requested the outfit before filming their sexual interactions with a camera on a tripod.
Pace testified that Kelly — whose reactions appeared muted in court — had sex with her over six months beginning in 2009, shortly after she turned 16. She testified that she had initially told Kelly that she was 19, but after he performed a sex act on her, she revealed her true age and told him that she was a virgin.
That did not lessen Kelly’s interest in her, she said. He engaged in sexual acts and intercourse with her during several visits to his home in a Chicago-area suburb, she said, where she was forced to operate under severe restrictions and eventually faced violent abuse.
Kelly’s legal team has moved to cast Pace as a jealous “superfan” of the singer who concocted lies as he lost interest in her. “You were in fact stalking him, weren’t you?” Deveraux Cannick, one of the singer’s four lawyers, said during his cross-examination Thursday. ( Pace replied that she was not.)
The defense’s strategy has focused on challenging both the nature of the unusual racketeering charges against Kelly, and arguing that the four women who are expected to testify against him have fabricated or embellished their accounts of his abusive behavior.
Cannick suggested that fame and money had motivated Pace to lie, questioning her about past interviews with the news media, and about how much money she received from a 2018 book deal.
During her testimony, Pace could not recall the date of one of the most graphic instances of abuse, or one of her own phone numbers, but she did recall Kelly’s. Cannick implied that her inability to recall some details showed she had been given the information that she did recall by prosecutors.
Pace, who is now married and more than 38 weeks pregnant, said she first encountered Kelly when she was 14. She sought his autograph during his 2008 criminal trial in Chicago, when he was acquitted of child pornography charges. Pace said that she skipped school to catch glimpses of him and had a brief conversation with the singer.
A year later, she was reconnected with Kelly through an employee and invited to a party.
But she said over her two-day testimony that she soon saw another side to Kelly.
On one occasion, she testified, the two had a trivial disagreement about basketball. Kelly supported his hometown Chicago Bulls; she disagreed, and said she enjoyed watching the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“He responded by slapping me,” she said, “and told me I was disrespecting him.”
The breaking point came in January 2010, she said.
After Pace failed to acknowledge him when he entered a room — one of what she called “Rob’s rules” — she testified that Kelly choked her until she passed out and then minutes later forced her to perform a sex act on him.
She grew emotional as she was asked to read from her journal entry written some time after the incident. “One moment,” she said, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
“Rob slapped me three times,” she read from the entry as her voice broke, “and said if I lied to him again, it’s not going to be an open hand next time.”
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