R. Kelly is sentenced to 30 years in prison

r-kelly-is-sentenced-to-30-years-in-prison

The disgraced R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.

He was sentenced in New York by federal Judge Ann Donnelly, who spoke at length before issuing the sentence. At one point, she quoted a victim impact statement from a woman known in court as Stephanie, who told Kelly, “No price was too high for someone else to pay for your happiness.”

“This case is not about sex,” the judge said. “It is about violence, cruelty and control.”

Donnelly acknowledged points made by defense, including that Kelly endured a very difficult childhood, with sexual abuse at the hands of his sister and a landlord. However, she added, “You are a person who had great advantages — worldwide fame and celebrity, untold money.”

Kelly declined to address the court himself. His lawyer cited pending cases: a second federal trial in Illinois, slated to begin Aug. 15, and separate criminal charges in Minnesota. The charges include child pornography and obstruction of justice.

Kelly’s conviction
Last year, Kelly was found guilty of charges including sexual exploitation of a child, racketeering, bribery and sex trafficking. The jury found the government proved Kelly was at the head of a criminal conspiracy to recruit and coerce girls, boys and women into sex.

Last year, Kelly was found guilty of charges including sexual exploitation of a child, racketeering, bribery and sex trafficking. The jury found the government proved Kelly was at the head of a criminal conspiracy to recruit and coerce girls, boys and women into sex.

Accusers spoke about how he hurt them
Before the judge announced Kelly’s sentence, seven women made their own statements to and about him and about the abuse they suffered. At no point did Kelly look at his accusers.

A woman identified in court as Angela said, “We will be able to live again.”

She said, “I am a representation of every woman, boy, child, man that you have ever afflicted with your deplorable, inexplicable acts, and with that I leave you with yourself, Robert Sylvester Kelly.”

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Another woman, known in court as Jane Doe 2, described enduring depression and stress related to Kelly’s abuse. She paused in her comments to demand his attention when Kelly whispered to his attorney. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t want to interrupt his conversation.”

A man identified as Charles, the father of another woman, said in a resigned tone, “So many people love you and they hate us.” He noted that Kelly hadn’t expressed remorse. Charles urged Kelly to confess and to ask for God’s forgiveness.

Kelly’s defense lawyer promises an appeal
“Obviously he’s devastated,” Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said outside the courthouse. “Thirty years in prison is like a life sentence for him, but at the same time we knew the government was asking for 25 years. We were prepared for what the judge might impose and we are now prepared to fight this appeal.”

Victims were heard
After the sentencing hearing, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said the case meant the “voices of mostly Black and brown women and children … were heard and believed, and for [them,] justice was finally achieved.”

The sentencing comes after decades of allegations against the multi-platinum singer. In 2008, he stood trial in his hometown of Chicago for child pornography. He was acquitted of all charges.

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From there, Kelly continued to live his life of superstardom, performing across the world and selling out venues.

In 2019, the TV docuseries Surviving R. Kelly renewed interest in the sexual abuse allegations against Kelly and gave a sustained push to the activists who had been pushing for Kelly to be pulled off airwaves and stages.

Jovante Cunningham, an accuser who had appeared in Surviving R. Kelly, said after the sentencing, “There wasn’t a day in my life, up until this moment, that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls. Thirty years did he do this, and 30 years is what he got.”

R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years for sex trafficking and racketeering

Former R&B star faced up to life in prison after a Brooklyn jury found him guilty last year

Former R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday for racketeering and sex trafficking, charges stemming from nearly 30 years of allegations that he physically and sexually abused women and minors.

It is a stunning fall for hitmaker Kelly, who won multiple Grammy Awards and released chart-topping music while dodging sexual misconduct allegations for decades. His is among the highest-profile cases to spring from the #MeToo movement, and the punishment handed down in a Brooklyn federal court is one of the harshest since the movement began. Film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years for felony rape, and earlier this week, Ghislaine Maxwell received 20 years for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein in the sex trafficking of young women and underage girls.

During his 2021 trial, Kelly was depicted by former live-in girlfriends and employees as a star who used his fame, wealth and power to control and sexually abuse women. The mounting allegations against the singer tested the loyalty of ardent fans that had dubbed Kelly the “King of R&B” and kept his music at the top of the charts.

The Brooklyn federal jury found Kelly, 55, guilty of one count of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act, a law created to curb sex trafficking across state lines.

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“The public has to be protected from behaviors like this,” Judge Ann M. Donnelly said as she delivered Kelly’s sentence, according to media reports. “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years.”

For decades, whispers of Kelly’s behavior were deafening. And yet the R&B singer continued to sell out major arenas and bask in the support of his fans and the music industry until the #MeToo movement founded by Tarana Burke and a Lifetime documentary forced a public and legal reckoning. “People will say ‘Well, why didn’t anyone notice?’ ” asked Mikki Kendall, an author who appeared in “Surviving R. Kelly,” the docuseries about the singer’s abuse. “The answer is that we all noticed. No one cared because we were Black girls.”

Lizzette Martinez, who has said she was abused by Kelly when she was a minor, said his 30-year sentence wasn’t enough, “but I’m pleased with it. It’s fine.”

Kelly’s racketeering conviction included 14 underlying acts. Witnesses testified that the ’90s hitmaker fraudulently married R&B singer Aaliyah, who was 15 and thought to be pregnant at the time, by bribing a government official to give her a fake ID that indicated she was an adult. Kelly did this to protect himself legally while he sexually abused Aaliyah, starting when she was about 13, according to prosecutors. She died in a plane crash when she was 22.

During the trial, one accuser identified as “Jane” testified that she was forced into sexual encounters with other women and was unable to leave rooms without Kelly’s permission. Others testified that Kelly and his team would use his celebrity to lure his victims, many of them minors hoping for big breaks in the music business, only to be sexually abused by Kelly.

He was also convicted of crossing state lines for illegal sexual activity, coercion and enticement, and transportation of a minor.

“I hope this sentencing serves as its own testimony that it doesn’t matter how powerful, rich or famous your abuser may be or how small they may make you feel. Justice only hears the truth,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, one of Kelly’s victims, Angela, turned to him as she spoke, according to media reports. “With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,” she said. “You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.”

The sentence “didn’t come as a great big surprise,” said Kelly lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, adding that he will appeal the conviction. “It’s just the beginning of the fight.”

During the trial, Kelly’s lawyers argued that his accusers were “groupies” seeking a lavish lifestyle. They later said he deserved a reduced sentence because he was allegedly sexually abused as a child. “He’s not a predator,” Bonjean said. “He has regrets and he is sad.”

Kelly’s case is one of the few in which the victims were mostly Black women, which activists used to draw attention to how sexual violence disproportionately affects women of color.

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“We are glad to see a sentence of 30 years, given the gravity of the abuse Kelly perpetrated. The sentencing in this case, where many of the survivors are women of color who fought tirelessly for R. Kelly to be brought to justice, sends an important message,” Erinn Robinson, director of media relations for RAINN, a nonprofit anti-sexual-assault organization, said in a statement. “Every survivor is deserving of empathy and justice, and we must create space for survivors from marginalized communities to be heard and believed. We hope this case encourages survivors from these communities to share their stories. You are not alone.”

Kelly was one of the most popular R&B singer-songwriters of the ’90s. For years the recording industry ignored allegations against him, and Kelly seemed untouchable. In 2008, he was acquitted in a child pornography case, in which he was accused of making a sex tape with a minor. The jury did not convict Kelly; his defense team argued that the identity of the girl in the video could not be confirmed.

The multiplatinum-selling star continued to churn out hits for years — from “I Believe I Can Fly” to “Step in the Name of Love” — before a social media campaign, #MuteRKelly, began calling for the public to stop supporting him. In 2019, the six-part Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” executive-produced by Dream Hampton, Tamra Simmons and Brie Miranda Bryant, put him under more scrutiny. As the decades of accusations and allegations made against the star were publicly reexamined, Kelly’s legal problems grew and many fans began to reassess their loyalty to the singer.

Kelly still faces various criminal charges in Chicago and Minnesota. In August, he will be tried in Illinois on federal charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice. In that case, Kelly switched defense attorneys, hiring Bonjean, who helped free Bill Cosby last year after he served nearly three years of a prison sentence for sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2020.

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