Robert Kelly, aka R Kelly, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison on sexual abuse charges, more than 20 years after first facing sexual allegations.
On Wednesday, US district judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence at the federal court in Brooklyn after hearing from survivors who attested to how Kelly’s exploitation reverberated in their lives.
The 55 year old was first found guilty in September 2021 of sex trafficking and racketeering on nine counts involving women, girls and young boys.
After the sentence was passed down, judge Ann Donnelly spoke directly to Kelly, saying: “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned, and regularly executed for almost 25 years. You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.”
Prosecutors at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago said that the R&B superstar deserves at least 25 years behind bars for sexually abusing women and girls,
R Kelly’s survivors were grateful for the long prison sentencing and the conviction represents a victory for victims of sexual violence, particularly those who may hesitate to speak out against abusers for fear of retribution.
At the trial, victims had described how Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage. Several said he would demand they strictly obey rules such as needing his permission to eat or go to the bathroom, and writing “apology letters” that purported to absolve him of wrongdoing.
Before sentencing on Wednesday, some victims made statements, including “Angela”, who said that “with every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness”. On this day of sentencing “we reclaim our names”, she said. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were.”
In her victim statement, Lizzette Martinez said: “Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives.”
Another, unnamed, victim who directly addressed Kelly as he kept his hands folded and his eyes down, said: “You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel. Do you remember that?”
Though convicted, Kelly denies involvement in sex trafficking. At a press conference following the sentencing, Bonjean announced they would appeal the decision.
While prosecutors sought a minimum 25-year term, Kelly’s defence pushed for a sentence of 10 years or less. They argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence”.
The singer has been detained at the Metropolitan detention center in Brooklyn since the verdict last September.
Kelly faces further legal trouble. In federal court in Chicago, he is charged with enticement of a minor, possession of child abuse images and obstruction of justice. That trial is set to be held in August.