SPECIAL REPORT: The alleged victim in the teen-sex trial of Mendeecees Harris testified today that he told her she was “better than [her] mother” after coercing her into oral sex by revealing his knowledge of a dark secret from her past.
Speaking in a barely audible whisper, her voice sometimes breaking, the now-19-year-old woman told jurors in Hackensack that the former “Love & Hip Hop” star went from being a “father figure” she could trust to someone who forced her into sex for money after she moved into his Lodi home in the summer of 2009.
It left her feeling guilty and ashamed, she said during more than an hour of testimony.
Now holding two jobs in the South, the tall, slender woman told jurors she had to quit nursing school to be at the trial because “you can’t miss that many days of class.”
After moving in with Harris, his girlfriend and her brothers, the woman testified, she routinely reported to him for permission to go out, among other reasons. Her mother was usually at work while she was home with Harris and the boys after school, she said, during questioning by Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Demetra Maurice.
Visibly uncomfortable, she gave brief responses to Maurice’s questions. Because she didn’t have much of a connection with her mother, she said, she confided in Harris.
“Mendeecees made me feel comfortable. He would give me advice. He’d say ‘It’ll be okay between you and your mom’,” the woman said.
Then came an afternoon when, with no one else home, she realized in the shower that she didn’t have a towel.
“I asked him to get me one, and he did,” the woman testified. “Then he came into my room and suggested I let him masturbate on me, but I just laughed.”
The suggestions continued, she said, until she relented. She said Harris then gave her $15 or $20 “for lunch or maybe a ball game.”
But that wasn’t enough for him, the woman testified: Using an extremely private piece of information, he coerced her into providing oral sex.
“He told me he knew I had been raped when I was 8 years old,” she said, “and he found out from my mother.
“ ‘Your mom doesn’t want you here’,” the woman said Harris told her before exposing himself.
She said she complied with his desire out of spite “to get back at my mom.”
“I felt betrayed by her,” she said. “I didn’t tell her about it until I was 14, and it was something I didn’t want anyone to know.”
Similar favors were demanded – and provided — for “$15 or $20” when she needed money for expenses, the woman testified. Eventually Harris enlisted her younger brothers by suggesting, when they asked him for money, to “talk to your sister. She knows what she has to do.”
The relationship ended, she said, when her mother took her cellphone to punish her for missing curfew and found a message on it from Harris.
“I heard them in their room yelling, I felt bad,” she said. “She came in my room and she was livid. She told me to get out. She was just screaming to me to get out. I don’t remember if she said why.”
The woman said she went to a friend’s house to spend the night.
“My mom didn’t know where I was,” she testified, “but Mendeecees did.”
The next day he came to find her, she said. He told her that her mother had packed her belongings – and then asked her: “Please don’t tell her anything about us,” the woman said.
“He said she didn’t know anything, so don’t say anything. It was something he would ‘take to his grave.’ He [also] told me they were done.
“I felt horrible,” the woman said. “At one point Mendeecees and my mother were going to get married. I felt it was all my fault.”
Harris faces seven counts of illegal sex with the girl, including giving her money as an inducement, Maurice told the jury, outlining a “very skillful manipulation” of a young girl who “had had a bit of a rough upbringing.”
Some of the incidents allegedly occurred while the youngster was still 15 and others after her 16th birthday, when Harris was more than four years older – the standard in New Jersey for statutory rape.
If convicted of the charges, Harris would face up to 20 years in prison.
Defense attorney Brian Neary called the incidents fabrications.
“He never asked her for sexual favors and never, ever offered her money,” Neary said during opening arguments today, adding that the teen was troubled and “had her own problems.
Neary is scheduled to cross-examine her tomorrow morning.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia
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