R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for using his R&B superstar to subject young fans to systematic sexual abuse.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly handed down the sentence at a courthouse in Brooklyn. The sentence limited a slow action for the singer-songwriter, 55. He remained by legion of fans, even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began to circulate in public in the 1990s.
A Brooklyn federal court jury found Kelly, 55, guilty of racketeering and other charges last fall during a trial that was considered a landmark moment in the #MeToo movement.
Anger over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories had previously been ignored because they were Black women.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has manipulated millions of fans into believing he is someone other than the man the jury saw, one prosecutor told the court Wednesday.
Victims “sought to be heard and recognized,” she said. “We are no longer the prey on individuals we once were.”
Another woman, sobbing and sniffing as she spoke, said Kelly’s conviction renewed her confidence in the justice system.
“I once lost hope,” she said as she addressed the court and prosecutors, “but you have restored my faith.”
The woman said Kelly victimized her after she went to a concert when she was 17.
“I was scared, naive and did not know how to handle the situation,” she said, so she did not speak.
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.”
Kelly keeps his hands folded and eyes down as he listens. “He is strong, and we are going to get through this,” said attorney Jennifer Bonjean on her way to court.
Donnelly has determined that federal guidelines allow a sentence of up to life in prison. Kelly’s attorneys searched for 10 years or less.
They argued in court documents he should get a break partly because he “experienced a traumatic childhood that involved serious, prolonged sexual abuse, poverty and violence in childhood.”
As an adult with “literacy deficiencies,” the star was “repeatedly deceived and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him,” his lawyers said.
The hitmaker is known for work, including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multiple story of sexual betrayal and intrigue.
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating in public in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who claimed to have been sexually harassed and sexually harassed while she was a minor, and he later stood trial on criminal child pornography charges related to another girl in Chicago. A jury there acquitted him in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
All the while, Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.