(CBS) — One of the four alleged victims in R. Kelly’s criminal sexual abuse case in Cook County has come forward, saying she was emboldened to speak out when Kelly went on television to call his accusers liars.
Lanita Carter, a hairdresser who said she braided Kelly’s hair for more than a year, spoke exclusively to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan, describing an alleged assault Kelly committed when she was 24 years old in 2003.
“This is a release,” Carter said with tears streaming down her face. “I’ve been carryin’ this since 2003. I have had to sit on a public bus and watch public conversation: ‘Did you hear about what they did with R. Kelly? They need to leave that man alone.’ And I can’t stand up for myself.”
Kelly was indicted last month on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, involving four alleged victims, three of them underage girls. Kelly has denied all accusations.
Carter is the first of the alleged victims in the case to come forward.
“When I finally realized I don’t want to be this victim, I don’t want to be a part of this, every time I tried to pick myself up again, I felt like something on the news brought me back to what I thought I swept under the rug,” Carter said. “Today — today I say: no more. You can talk about me. You can not like what I’m sayin’ about your favorite singer. But this is my life… This is my truth. This is what I have. If I die tomorrow, I know that I told the truth. I know that I want to be the best person I could be. I know that I want to help people. If it’s anybody that want to speak [their] truth, it’s hard when it’s a celebrity. It’s not easy. It’s not easy if it wasn’t a celebrity. It makes it 10 times worse.”
Carter was Kelly’s hairdresser at the time. She claimed Kelly tried to force her to perform oral sex on him, but she resisted. She said Kelly then masturbated and spit in her face. Carter submitted her shirt to the authorities for DNA testing, and the semen sample on the shirt was a match to Kelly’s DNA profile, Cook County prosecutors said.
Identified in the indictment against R. Kelly as “L.C.,” Carter said she stood up for Kelly when he was arrested on child pornography charges in 2002, and believed he was a “perfect gentleman.”
She said he never propositioned her or asked her to do anything sexual until Feb. 18, 2003.
“I get a phone call to come down and do his hair… When he came to the room and he asked me for that head massage, and I told him I didn’t do massages, I laughed it off. And I didn’t know he was for real,” Carter said. “If I could change that day – I wouldn’t have been there.”
“He pulled my braid down by him. And he say, ‘Suck it for daddy, suck it for daddy.’ And I said, ‘No.’ And I did like this. And he just started going, [spitting noises]. He did it, like, six times,” Carter added.
Carter said Kelly stopped only after someone knocked on the door.
“He didn’t open the door right away. He says, ‘Fix your face! Fix your m*********ing face!'” Carter recounted. “I knew that it’ll be my last day there… And I get to the bathroom, and I grabbed a wall, and it was a rose-colored towel… I wiped my face… I’m not dressed no type of way. I look at myself in the mirror, like, I’m not a beauty queen. I didn’t perceive myself to be nothing more than just his hair braider.”
“And I was kept thinking to myself, like, ‘Why did this happen to me?'” she added.
That day, she said she called the police.
“They asked for my clothing. And I gave them my favorite Tommy Hilfiger shirt,” Carter said. “And that’s where they found DNA evidence.”
“DNA evidence from R. Kelly on your shirt?” Duncan asked.
“Semen,” Carter said.
At the time, charges were not filed in Carter’s case. Shauna Boliker, who was then the lead sex crimes prosecutor, has not responded to our multiple requests for comment.
“Celebrities are powerful. Celebrities have support systems. I have no support system outside of my immediate family,” Carter said.
Ten months after the incident, she signed a $650,000 settlement in which Kelly denied any wrongdoing and Carter agreed to keep quiet.
In 2009 Kelly released a song about having sex with a woman who braids his hair. “Zig-zag braids, got em looking like spaghettay,” the lyrics said.
“That was one of the hair styles that I was known for doing, that I never did on him,” Carter said. “We were on the L-shaped couch when the incident happened.”
That song led to another confidential settlement – this time for $100,000. Kelly again denied any wrongful conduct but agreed to never perform the song or include it in future albums.
In January, following the uproar sparked by the Lifetime docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” Carter responded to a plea by the current Cook County state’s attorney, Kimberly Foxx, for victims to call her office. “We need actual witnesses and victims to have the courage to tell their stories,” Foxx had said.
“I would be going on with my day, you turn on the news, here’s another R. Kelly victim, another R. Kelly victim, another R. Kelly victim. And you just – you just want to be there for them,” Carter said.
Carter said she saw Kelly’s interview with “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King in March where he denied all accusations. “I didn’t do this stuff. This is not me! I’m fighting for my f***ing life! Y’all killing me with this s**t!” Kelly had said in the explosive interview.
“What did you think when you were watching that?” Duncan asked.
“Felt like it should be a crime to publicly tell a story… that was able to get on television and lie,” Carter said.
“Did seeing that interview embolden you to want to speak even more?”
“Yes. It’s actually the reason that I’m here,” Carter said.
Kelly’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, told CBS News: “These allegations were fully investigated by the police and prosecutors… And a decision was made, after evaluating all of the evidence, not to bring any charges.”
“I know that I love myself today. I know that I don’t care what anybody say about me,” Carter said.
“This is a release. I’ve been carryin’ this since 2003,” she added with tears streaming down her face. “I don’t want to be in the public. But this is my life… If I die tomorrow, I know that I told the truth.”
CBS News interviewed Carter the day after her attorney, Michael Avenatti, was charged with embezzlement, extortion, and other federal crimes. He continues to represent her. The Cook County state’s attorney declined to speak about Carter’s claims, citing department policy against commenting on open cases.