Jerhonda Johnson, 24 years, was a 15-year-old sophomore from Chicago when she first met R. Kelly.
She would skip school to attend the trial of her musical idol, who at the time was facing 14-counts of making child pornography. That’s how the story of their ongoing relationship began.
Now, the married mother of three (she now goes by Jerhonda Pace) is speaking out in detail about how she — at age 16 — began having intimacy and accepting cash settlements from the R. Kelly in return for signing nondisclosure agreements.
This isn’t some random woman making allegations. Buzzfeed News has reviewed signed legal documents, drafts of settlements between R. Kelly and Jerhonda, correspondence between Jerhonda and the attorneys involved, a polygraph test performed at the request of her attorney regarding her relationship with R. Kelly, a probate court document opening an estate for Jerhonda as the result of a civil settlement, and a subsequent payment made by R. Kelly’s management company.
She says her reason for speaking out now is because she’s concerned about the women still living in R. Kelly’s ‘cult’ — particularly about a friend she brought into R. Kelly’s circle when they were both teenagers and who multiple sources say still lives with him.
“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.”
Pace says she met Kelly when he was walking into the court building. The star “seemed like a cool guy, and he would always speak to me when he saw me,” she recalls. She even got the singer’s autograph, which she provided to BuzzFeed News. “He didn’t have anything to sign, and neither did I, but my friend reached into her pocket and found an old bank slip, so I got his autograph on her bank slip. I laminated that.”
That meeting with Kelly would not be her last. In May 2009, a friend and employee of Kelly’s friended Pace on Myspace, Pace tells BuzzFeed News, and invited her to a party Kelly was throwing at his mansion in suburban Olympia Fields, Illinois. Pace, who had just turned 16, says she lied to her parents, telling them she was going to a friend’s house.
“I was a bit nervous,” she says. “Even though I had already met him at his trial, I was like literally at his house, so it did not feel real.” She remembers Kelly calling her over to the bar and telling her he had noticed her at the trial. He then asked for her cell phone and entered his number in it. “At the time I was still, you know, pretty starstruck, so I was in disbelief,” she says. Pace says she did not tell Kelly she was underage, and would later tell private investigators she claimed to be 19 years old at the time. (The age of consent in Illinois is 17.)
Not long after, on June 5, 2009, Pace says Kelly invited her to come back to his mansion and sent an employee to pick her up in a black SUV. “He told me that he wanted me to undress for him [and] walk back and forth like I was modeling,” she says. The two then had oral intimacy and, Pace , Kelly made his first attempt to ensure that she did not talk about this by having her write out and sign letters stating that she had stolen jewelry and cash from him and that her parents had set her up to blackmail him. Pace says she did as instructed, but none of the charges were true.
On the next visit, on June 9, Pace says Kelly gave her an alcoholic drink , which is also the name of a song he released in 2005. “I was drunk, because I wasn’t used to alcohol,” Pace says. The two had intercourse; Pace says she was a virgin, and Kelly thought that was exciting.
Over the next seven months, Pace says she had intimacy with Kelly repeatedly, a claim she would later repeat during her settlement process. Without asking her permission, Kelly filmed most of the encounters on his iPhone or a video camera on a tripod, Pace says and a settlement draft reiterates. “I had to call him ‘daddy,’ and he would call me ‘baby.’ He wanted me to have two pigtails, and I had to go out and find little schoolgirl outfits.”
If Kelly was previously unaware of Pace’s age, she says she told him for certain that she was 16 on July 17, 2009, a claim she also made in the aforementioned documents. “I gave him my state ID,” she says. She recalls that Kelly told her things were fine, but that she should tell anyone who asked that she was 19, and act like she was 25.
Pace says that she started spending weekends with Kelly at his Olympia Fields home. While she was in the mansion, she says, she had to follow Kelly’s “rules,” which included dressing in baggy clothes, turning over her phone, and asking permission to shower, eat, go to the bathroom, and leave the property. If she broke the rules, she says, she was mentally and physically abused.
“At the time, I didn’t know what I liked, honestly,” Pace says, explaining why she complied. “I just knew that I liked his music, so I was pretty much accepting anything that came with him at the time.”
According to Pace, she and her 17-year-old friend, a fellow superfan she’d met on Myspace who sources say still lives with Kelly today, were hanging out at Kelly’s Olympia Fields mansion in July 2009 when police in two squad cards arrived in search of the friend, whose mother had called to complain that her young daughter was with Kelly. Pace, both when speaking to BuzzFeed News and during her 2010 polygraph test, says that Kelly called one of his attorneys, who advised his star client that he did not have to let the police into the house if they did not have a warrant.
At the time, Police Chief Jeff Chudwin told the Southtown Star: “[We] were informed of a possible criminal matter. We investigated the issues, found there to be no crime, and the matters have been closed.” A spokesperson for Kelly called the report “wildly exaggerated,” adding that “no police ever showed up at Kelly’s house with a search warrant nor was his house ever searched.” A few days later, the newspaper noted that Kelly was “the largest taxpayer in the village of 4,700,” with his property taxes representing one-tenth of the police department’s budget for 2008.
Pace says Kelly asked her to engage in threesomes, including with a woman who was best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried. BuzzFeed News previously reported that this woman was still living with Kelly as of the summer of 2016. Pace says she also saw the girl in the videotape at a party in Olympia Fields, and that she recognized her from watching the video in court.
No one should be defending R. Kelly at this point. No one.