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Rick James Describes Drug Woes, but Denies Assaults : Trial: Singer says his mother's death in 1991 touched off a bout of depression, cocaine and sex.

September 09, 1993|JULIO MORAN and ANN W. O'NEILL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Singer Rick James quietly sobbed Wednesday as he testified that his mother's death in 1991 contributed to his downward spiral of sex and drugs, but he denied torturing a woman with a hot cocaine pipe and forcing her to have sex with his girlfriend while he watched.

During nearly three hours of testimony in the third week of his San Fernando Superior Court trial on 15 felony counts--which could put him in prison for the rest of his life--James also denied beating up a second woman nearly 1 1/2 years later at the St. James' Club Hotel in West Hollywood.

James denied that his life had imitated his art. Instead, while describing his long career in music, James said his 1981 hit song "Super Freak" changed his life, drawing many women to him who were similar to one described in the song as "a very kinky girl . . . the type you don't bring home to mother."

But, he said, the tune began as just a "silly song."

"I don't even know what 'super freak' means," James said. "I could take any girl home to my mother."

It was the death of James' mother, which occurred shortly before the alleged incident at his home, that he said brought him to tears Wednesday. Her death so depressed him that he became a recluse in his own bedroom and lost himself in drugs, he said.

"I just kind of gave up," James said, his voice trembling.

According to the testimony of other defense witnesses, a portrait of James' mother hung on the wall of his Marina del Rey condominium, along with his gold records.

James dressed conservatively for his day in court, wearing a tan double-breasted suit with a white shirt buttoned at the collar. His hair was slicked back into a ponytail and he wore one gold hoop earring.

But the conservative outfit did not impress prosecutor Andrew Flier, who called James a liar outside the courtroom.

"He has perjured himself and fabricated stories," said Flier, who is scheduled to cross-examine James today. "He has a justification for every fact that goes against him."

James' testimony marked the singer's first public account of what happened during the two incidents.

A 26-year-old woman testified earlier in the trial that she spent nearly a week smoking cocaine with James and his girlfriend, Tanya Anne Hijazi, at James' former Hollywood Hills home in July, 1991. Twice, she testified, she consented to sex with James. But the party ended one morning when James became angry and accused her of stealing some of his drugs.

She said he forced her to remove her clothes and then tied her to a chair. He burned her repeatedly with a hot kitchen knife, a lighter and a cocaine pipe, she said.

After about 40 minutes, she said, James untied her, but forced her to have oral sex with Hijazi, and then all three had sex.

The November, 1992, incident involves a 35-year-old woman who testified previously that James and Hijazi invited her to join them at the West Hollywood hotel to discuss business, but after a few drinks and smoking cocaine, she said, the two repeatedly punched her in the face and choked her.

James said Wednesday that the first alleged victim initiated sex with Hijazi and that he only became aware of her injuries about two days after the woman had left.

James was explaining the hotel incident when proceedings were halted for the day. The defense is expected to place the blame for the injuries on Hijazi, who has pleaded guilty to a single count of assault with a deadly weapon in exchange for all other charges being dismissed. She is to be sentenced Sept. 21.

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