R. Kelly, a disgraced R&B icon, was given a 30-year prison term on Wednesday for exploiting his stardom to systematically abuse young fans, some of whom were just children, for years.
Several of Kelly’s accusers spoke in court in New York City, as well as the singer himself, while visibly upset and crying about how he had abused them.
“You forced me to do things that left me depressed. One unnamed sufferer confronted Kelly directly, saying, “I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel. Kelly kept his hands folded and his eyes lowered.
“Do you remember that?” she questioned.
Kelly, 55, remained silent and showed no expression after being informed that his punishment also included a $100,000 fine. He has maintained his innocence and intends to challenge his conviction.
In a trial that gave voice to witnesses who had previously questioned whether their experiences were being overlooked because they were Black women, the Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling musician was found guilty of racketeering and s*x trafficking last year.
Another of his accusers noted after the sentencing that victims “are no longer the preyed-on persons we previously were.”
Outside of court, she added, “There wasn’t a day in my life that I genuinely felt that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls.
Kelly’s conviction, according to a third woman who spoke to the court while sniffling and crying, restored her faith in the legal system.
After the woman attended a concert when she was 17 years old, she claimed Kelly molested her.
She didn’t speak up at the time because she was “frightened, naive, and didn’t know how to handle the issue,” she added.
She claimed that silence is a terribly lonely place.
The punishment left Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, “devastated,” and he expressed sadness over what he had heard.
He is a living entity. He is sensitive to other people’s emotions. However, that does not imply that he can accept responsibility in the manner that the government and other people would prefer. Because he takes issue with the assumptions made about him, she explained.
The sentencing puts an end to Kelly’s slow-motion decline. Kelly is most known for her work on the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part story of sexual betrayal and intrigue, and the 1996 song “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Even after reports of his alleged abuse of underage girls surfaced in the 1990s, he was beloved by hordes of admirers and sold millions of CDs. When a jury cleared him of child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, he triumphed.
It wasn’t until the #MeToo movement that widespread outrage about Kelly’s s*xual misconduct began to surface, and it peaked following the release of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace stated on Wednesday, “I hope this sentencing serves as its own evidence that it doesn’t matter how little they make you feel or how powerful, wealthy, or famous your abuser may be – justice only hears the truth.”
After learning that the singer, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, met ladies and utilized his entourage of managers and assistants to keep them submissive, an operation that the prosecution claimed amounted to a criminal enterprise, a Brooklyn federal court jury found him guilty.
Kelly was accused by several people of subjecting underage victims to bizarre and brutal impulses.
The accusers claimed they received threats and punishments, including brutal spankings, for disobeying what one person referred to as “Rob’s rules,” and that they were made to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Some claimed they were afraid that if they revealed what was going on, the videotapes he made of them having sex would be used against them.
According to testimony, Kelly forced a teenage boy to have sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD and made a humiliating video that showed one victim smearing feces on her face as punishment for disobeying him.
As she handed down her ruling, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly referred to “the atrocities your victims faced.” “Nothing was too expensive to buy your happiness.”
When she first met Kelly, Lizzette Martinez was a 17-year-old aspiring vocalist who was visiting a Florida mall. She claimed Wednesday outside court that she had been offered mentorship but had instead rapidly become “a sex slave.”
She hesitated before responding to the question of whether Kelly’s 30-year sentence was appropriate retribution.
I personally don’t think it’s enough, but I’m happy with it, she remarked.
Evidence of a phony marriage plot Kelly concocted to shield himself from suspicion of having impregnated R&B superstar Aaliyah while she was only 15 years old was also revealed at the trial. Witnesses claimed they wed while wearing similar jogging suits and a license that falsely stated she was 18 while actually being 27.
Kelly co-wrote and produced Aaliyah’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” debut album in 1994. At the age of 22, she perished in a plane disaster.
Kelly didn’t testify during his trial, but Kelly’s former attorneys painted his accusers as girlfriends and groupies who stayed with him because they benefited from his lifestyle and weren’t coerced into anything.
His present attorneys had argued that because of his horrific past, which included “severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence,” he should only spend up to 10 years in prison.
The actor was routinely cheated out of money as an adult with “literacy problems, frequently by the persons he employed to protect him,” according to his attorneys.
Unless they come out publicly as Martinez did, The Associated Press does not name those who claim they have experienced s*xual assault or abuse. Several of the women who spoke at Kelly’s sentencing were only given their first names or aliases.
Kelly has been detained in jail without a bond since 2019. In Chicago, where a trial is set to start on August 15, he continues to be charged with child pornography and obstructing the administration of justice.
Ted Shaffrey, an Associated Press journalist, contributed to this story.