R&B Singer R Kelly whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, following a conviction in federal court last year on sex trafficking and racketeering charges. .
He was convicted on nine counts last September, which included one racketeering and eight counts of Mann Act violations.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly said the celebrity had used sex as a weapon, forcing his victims to do unspeakable things and saddling them with incurable diseases.
“You taught them that love is enslavement and violence”, she said.
The court heard how Kelly – known for hit songs like I Believe I Can Fly and Ignition – used his influence to lure women and children into sexual abuse over two decades.
Jurors at his six-week trial in Brooklyn heard how he trafficked women between different US states, assisted by managers, security guards and other members of his entourage.
The court also heard how Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry singer Aaliyah when she was 15 in 1994, seven years before the singer died in a plane crash.
Allegations about Kelly’s abuse of young girls began circulating in the 1990s. He was indicted on child pornography charges in June 2002, but a jury acquitted him after concluding they could not prove that the alleged victim was a minor.
In August 2019, the Soulacoaster author was charged with two counts of prostitution with a person under 18 by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in Minnesota. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied all allegations against him.
The trial that handed Kelly 30-year jail began in August 2021, with his alleged victims taking the stand as “Jane Does.”
During the trial, eight Jane Does and two John Does — among over 40 witnesses brought by prosecutors, recounted sadistic and perverse experiences involving Kelly, as well as witnessing abuse inflicted on others.
His previous employees and associates, many of which stood by as the incidents occurred, corroborated the testimonies of victims.
Prosecutors laid out how Kelly used a network of employees to trade on his fame and wealth in order to “prey upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification,” they wrote in a court filing this month.
During the six-week trial, many of the accusers alleged they were coerced into signing nondisclosure agreements and subjected to violent punishment if they broke his rules. And given Kelly’s history of videotaping sex, they feared he would use those tapes as blackmail in order to keep them quiet.
Details of Kelly’s 1994 marriage to a then-underage Aaliyah were brought to the surface in court and used used to support the government’s case against Kelly for bribery.
The jury was presented evidence that the singer falsified a license in order to marry Aaliyah when she was only 15 and he was 27. He was also accused of participating in bribing an official in order to facilitate the marriage, which was annulled months later. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
Another witness, who used the name Stephanie, claimed that she met Kelly in 1999 when she was 17.
“I remember him asking me my age. When I said I was 17, he said it was fine”, she testified
Stephanie alleged that the R&B star, sexually assaulted her and recorded them having sex.
Federal prosecutors had recommended that Kelly be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison, given the seriousness of his crimes and “the need to protect the public from further crimes”.
But his lawyers called for a sentence of 10 years – the mandatory minimum for his conviction – or less. They portrayed Kelly as growing up poor in a household rife with domestic violence and suffering sexual abuse from a young age.
The attorneys have claimed that the prosecution’s desire to lock the 55-year-old singer up for 25 years is “tantamount to a life sentence.”
They said he was “devastated” by the sentence and planned to appeal.
Gloria Allred, who is representing the three women who testified against R Kelly, told reporters that “no one can undo the harm that has been done to these victims.”
Though Wednesday’s sentencing represents the end of one legal battle, Kelly is still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in his hometown of Chicago. That trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 1.