A woman who worked as a backup singer for Aaliyah in the early ’90s testified in court on Monday that she walked in on R. Kelly having sexual contact with the young singer when she would have been just 13 or 14.
The woman, who was identified only as Angela in court, said she and the other backup singers had been in a hotel in Washington, DC, while on tour and snuck up to the tour bus to play a prank on Kelly. She cracked open the bus door, she said, and was shocked to see Kelly performing oral sex on Aaliyah.
She closed the door abruptly and never spoke to Kelly about what she allegedly saw.
Angela first met Kelly in 1991, when she was an aspiring singer between the ages of 14 and 15. Another high school–aged girl, Tiffany, brought her to Kelly’s apartment in Chicago, where two other teenage girls were present, along with three of Kelly’s adult male associates. At one point, Angela said, Kelly had each of them come into another room, one by one. When Angela entered the room, she found the three other girls standing in the room, some of whom were removing their clothes.
“He asked me to climb on top of him,” Angela said.
She said she asked if he had a condom, to which he said he did not, but he put on a condom Angela had with her. She and Kelly then had intercourse, she said. Kelly also had sexual contact with all three other girls during the encounter, Angela said.
Angela saw Kelly “every day for quite a few years” after that, she said. At Kelly’s urging, she and Tiffany stopped attending high school to focus on their music careers.
“We were given an option: We were either going to sing, or we were going to go to school,” she said.
The alleged sexual contact between Angela and Kelly continued for three or four years after, while she was still under the age of 18.
“He told us that we had to ‘pay our dues’ — it was a requirement to be around,” Angela said.
He also told them to “get [him] some girls, or bring [him] some new talent,” she testified.
The first time Angela met Aaliyah on the young singer’s 12th or 13th birthday, she said. Angela, along with Tiffany and an unnamed third girl, were told by Kelly they would be Aaliyah’s backup singers. At the time, Kelly and Aaliyah were working on her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.
While on tour with Kelly in about 1993, Angela, who was then 16 or 17, said she soon realized Kelly could be controlling and had an intense temper when disobeyed. One time, she, Aaliyah, and Tiffany attended another musician’s pool party, which enraged Kelly.
“He didn’t like people looking at his girls,” she said.
Later that night, Kelly and the male members of his entourage went to an afterparty and told Angela and the other girls to stay in their hotel rooms. They left to go get food at a 7-Eleven, got lost on the way back, and wound up running into Kelly and the other men. Kelly allegedly said the girls would have to “put out” sexually as punishment, but Angela refused. He initially threatened to send her home as a result, but when she said she’d tell her mom, Kelly allegedly said he was “just joking.”
It was on this same tour that Angela said she discovered Kelly and a 12- or 13-year-old Aaliyah engaged in sexual contact on the tour bus.
Angela appeared in the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, where she spoke about Aaliyah. But she did not say then that she too had been sexually abused by Kelly.
“I was embarrassed,” she explained. “I never wanted anyone to know I’d ever been in that situation at all.”
Also on Monday, another alleged victim — nicknamed “Nephew,” but with no actual relation to the defendant — took the stand. Nephew is one of two men who have testified that they were allegedly sexually abused by Kelly. Nephew said he was introduced to Kelly when he was a 16-year-old high school junior when his friend, Louis, brought him to a party at the singer’s house in 2007. Louis previously testified that he met Kelly the year prior when he was 17 while working at McDonalds, and that Kelly began sexually abusing him shortly after.
It wasn’t until several years later, when Nephew was 20, that Kelly allegedly began having unwanted sexual contact with him. Sometimes, Kelly would direct him and one of the alleged female victims to engage in sex acts together, and Kelly would film it while masturbating, he said. Nephew recalled the girls seemed “zombie-ish” during these encounters.
Nephew said his relationship with Kelly made him feel “used, abused, and lied to,” and even “brainwashed.” After Surviving R. Kelly began airing, Kelly continued to see Nephew, but seemed to become apprehensive about the potential ramifications. As a protective measure, Kelly allegedly dictated a letter for Nephew to write and sign, as he is accused of making many of his other alleged victims do.
“He said he needed me to write something for him...saying we had no sexual relationship with each other,” Nephew said. “He told me word for word.”
Diana Copeland, Kelly’s former executive assistant, also said Monday she was made to write a letter stating how she felt about him in order to protect him. During this 2019 meeting, which she said was the last time she saw Kelly, she was asked by one of Kelly’s “girlfriends” to take off her clothes and put on a robe to ensure she wasn’t “wired.” She refused to undress, and testified Monday she was not, in fact, wearing a wire.
“He was very upset at what was going on in the media,” she said.`
Copeland’s testimony painted a picture of a paranoid, controlling man, and corroborated many of the allegations put forth by Kelly’s alleged victims. The girls and women living in Kelly’s house “were not free to roam,” she said, and he would not allow them to interact with any men besides himself. When calling an Uber for one of them, Copeland testified, she often had to cancel multiple rides until getting a female driver.
“He did eventually realize you can’t pick the gender of the driver, so he didn’t ask anymore,” she said.