R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday.
In New York, he was sentenced 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 named Stephanie in court, who told Kelly, “No price was too high for someone else to pay for your happiness.”
“This is not a sex case,” the judge stated. “It’s all about violence, cruelty, and power.” Donnelly acknowledged the defense’s points, including Kelly’s difficult childhood, which included sexual abuse at the hands of his sister and a landlord. “You are a person who had great advantages — worldwide fame and celebrity, untold money,” she added.
Kelly declined to speak to the court. His attorney cited pending cases, including a second federal trial in Illinois, which is set to begin on Aug. 15, and separate criminal charges in Minnesota. Child pornography and obstructing justice are among the charges.
Kelly was found guilty of sexual exploitation of a child, racketeering, bribery, and sex trafficking last year. Kelly was found to be at the helm of a criminal conspiracy to recruit and coerce girls, boys, and women into sex by the jury. Several victims established a pattern during the trial, where they would see Kelly at a show or out in public, and an associate of Kelly would hand them a phone number to call.
They would then become entangled in a system of sexual and psychological abuse. Kelly made his victims perform sexual acts for his pleasure (which he often filmed). He imposed strict restrictions on where his victims could go and who they could speak with. And he forced them to write letters or videotape themselves while claiming they were acting freely.
Accusers Spoke About How He Hurt Them
Before the judge handed down Kelly’s sentence, seven women made statements to and about him, as well as about the abuse they endured. Kelly never looked at his accusers.
“We will be able to live again,” Angela, a woman identified in court, said.
“I am a representation of every woman, boy, child, and man that you have ever afflicted with your deplorable, inexplicable acts,” she said, “and with that, Robert Sylvester Kelly, I leave you with yourself.”
Another woman, identified in court as Jane Doe 2, described experiencing depression and stress as a result of Kelly’s abuse. When Kelly whispered to his attorney, she paused in her remarks to demand his attention. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I don’t want to disturb his conversation.”
“So many people love you and they hate us,” a man identified as Charles, the father of another woman, said resignedly. Kelly had not expressed remorse, he observed. Charles urged Kelly to confess and seek forgiveness from God.
Kelly’s Defense Lawyer Promises An Appeal
Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said outside the courthouse, “Obviously, he’s devastated.” “Thirty years in prison is equivalent to a life sentence for him, but we were aware that the government was requesting 25 years. We were ready for whatever the judge might impose, and we are now ready to fight this appeal.”
Victims Were Heard
Following the sentencing hearing, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace stated that the case meant that “the voices of mostly Black and brown women and children… were heard and believed, and justice was finally achieved for [them].”
The sentence follows decades of allegations leveled against the multi-platinum singer. In 2008, he was charged with child pornography in his hometown of Chicago. He was found not guilty on all counts.
Kelly went on to live his life as a superstar, performing all over the world and selling out venues.
Surviving R. Kelly, a TV docuseries, revived interest in Kelly’s sexual abuse allegations in 2019 and provided a sustained push to activists calling for Kelly’s removal from the airwaves and stages.
After the sentencing, Jovante Cunningham, an accuser who appeared in Surviving R. Kelly, said, “There was never a time in my life when I truly believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls. He did this for thirty years and received thirty years in return.”