Jerhonda Pace: Woman Claims had Underage S.ex with R. Kelly Speaks

Jerhonda Pace was just 15 when she met her musical idol, R. Kelly, outside his child pornography trial. 

The alleged underage s.exual relationship with him that followed and subsequent payouts mirror decades of allegations against the star.

In 2008, Johnson was a 15-year-old sophomore from Chicago’s south suburbs who cut high school every day to attend R. Kelly’s trial on 14 counts of making child pornography. 

The R&B superstar had no bigger fan, and Johnson was quoted in national media stories defending her musical idol.

Now a 24-year-old mother of three with the married name Jerhonda Pace, she tells BuzzFeed News that after the trial, when she was 16, she became one of many women traumatized by a sexual relationship with Kelly. 

Robert Kelly Under the Spotlight 

Her detailed and well-documented story of accepting cash settlements from the star in return for signing nondisclosure agreements, which has not been previously reported, illustrates how Kelly has been able to silence young women he has allegedly wronged.

Several individuals with firsthand knowledge of the situation have supported Pace’s claims.

Additionally, BuzzFeed News reviewed signed legal documents, drafts of settlements between Kelly and Pace, correspondence between Pace and the attorneys involved, a polygraph test performed at the request of her attorney regarding her relationship with Kelly, a probate court document opening an estate for Pace as the result of a civil settlement, and a subsequent payment made by Kelly’s management company to Pace.

Representatives for Kelly issued a statement early Tuesday morning denying Pace's allegations. 

“The allegations against Mr. Kelly are false, and are being made by individuals known to be dishonest. It is clear these continuing stories are the result of the effort of those with personal agendas who are working in concert to interfere with and damage his career. Mr. Kelly again denies any and all wrong doing and is taking appropriate legal action to protect himself from ongoing defamation.”

Pace is the fourth former member of Kelly’s circle to tell BuzzFeed News that the star mentally and physically abuses the women closest to him. 

Kelly has faced similar allegations for years: In 2005, for example, his then-wife, Andrea Lee, filed for an order of protection in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that her husband had slapped and hit her, and demanding “no contact at all by any means.” She later dropped that order.

Pace's story is different than previously reported accounts because she was underage when she and Kelly began a sexual relationship. 

Pace says she is talking now — and breaking a signed nondisclosure agreement — because she is concerned about women still living with Kelly in what police have been told is an abusive “cult,” as BuzzFeed News first reported last month. 

Pace says she’s particularly concerned about a friend she brought into Kelly’s circle when they were both teenagers and who multiple sources say still lives with Kelly. “If I can speak out and I can help them get out of that situation, that’s what I will do.”

Kelly has adamantly denied allegations of wrongdoing, and one alleged victim, 21-year-old Joycelyn Savage, has said she is doing fine. Her parents, and the parents of an 18-year-old aspiring singer from Florida, have all said they have been told there is an ongoing federal investigation into Kelly, but an FBI spokesman declined requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.

“If I can speak out and I can help them get out of that situation, that’s what I will do,” Pace says. “I didn’t have anybody to speak up on my behalf when I was going through what I was going through with him. He’s brainwashed them really bad, and it kind of reminds me of Charles Manson.”

“I just really hope I can help these women out,” she says. “Kelly needs to be stopped.”

Pace waiting for Kelly’s arrival outside the Cook County Circuit Court on April 1, 2008. Kelly was being tried for child pornography.

Pace says she first became a self-described R. Kelly “superfan” when she heard his album Chocolate Factory at age 11. “My family listened to his music, my friends listened to his music, everybody was just in love with the music. [Chicago radio station] WGCI was the biggest supporter — they played him all the time — and it was my favorite radio station.”

Her fandom didn’t fade when Kelly was indicted for making child pornography, Pace says. Once the trial began in May 2008, she attended the proceedings every day until Kelly’s acquittal on June 13 of that year. If convicted, Kelly could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

(While working at the Chicago Sun-Times, this reporter received the tape anonymously and turned it over to the police; called by Kelly's attorneys to testify, he took the Fifth Amendment rather than revealing sources.)

Looking back, Pace says she attended the trial because she was a fan and wanted to know what happened. “Did he really do it?” she recalls wondering. “I wanted to see everything for myself.” That included watching the notorious video when it was shown several times in court.

“At the time I was still, you know, pretty starstruck, so I was in disbelief.” 

Prosecutors alleged that the 26-minute, 39-second video depicted Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, urinating in her mouth, and ordering her to call him “daddy.” Pace says watching the video was “disturbing.” 

But because the girl and her parents never testified— though 14 other witnesses, including her aunt, did identify the girl — Pace says she thought, Well, maybe that’s not the girl. If she would have come forward, I think it would have made a huge difference.

Outside of court at the time, she defended Kelly to multiple news outlets. "They can't call him a pedophile anymore," Pace, then 15, told MTV. 

"They can't say he likes little girls. They don't have proof of that. Because he's innocent now. He's free." 

The MTV article reported that Pace was 18, but public records, as well as Pace’s birth certificate and driver’s license, show she was actually 15 at the time; she admits she lied to the reporter because Cook County sheriff’s officers were not admitting anyone under 18 into the trial. - BuzFeed 

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