Following his conviction on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges, disgraced singer/songwriter R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, reports CNN.
According to the report, prosecutors requested that the judge sentence Kelly to more than 25 years behind bars. His team of lawyers asked for 10 or fewer, claiming the prosecutors’ request was “tantamount to a life sentence.”
“He committed these crimes using his fame and stardom as both a shield, which prevented close scrutiny or condemnation of his actions,” stated the federal prosecutors. “And a sword, which gave him access to wealth and a network of enablers to facilitate his crimes, and an adoring fan base from which to cull his victims.”
As U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly began reading his sentence, survivors of Kelly’s abuse held hands and prayed. Meanwhile, Kelly was emotionless as the sentence was read.
“You left in your wake a trail of broken lives,” Donnelly told Kelly,
During sentencing, Donnelly said she acknowledged the childhood sexual abuse that Kelly experienced by a family member and a landlord.
“It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior,” the judge said. “It most surely is not an excuse.”
Last September, Kelly was found guilty on nine counts, including one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
The five-week federal trial included testimony from witnesses who said they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The court also heard from people involved with orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and after he allegedly got her pregnant.
Jovante Cunningham, a former backup singer for Kelly, lauded the sentence handed out by the judge.
“I started this journey 30 years ago,” Cunningham said outside the court after the hearing. “There wasn’t a day in my life up until this moment that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and Brown girls. I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome.”
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, who did not address the court because of several other criminal cases that Kelly is facing, said she “rejects that he is this monster.”
“He accepts that he is a flawed individual,” Bonjean said, “but he is not this one-dimensional monster that the government has portrayed and the media has portrayed.”
R. Kelly's only comment was when he said that he wouldn’t speak: “Yes, your honor, that’s my wish.”
Before his sentence was handed down, the court heard statements from seven of Kelly’s victims, including Jane Doe 2, who testified at trial.
“It’s been 23 years since we knew each other, and you’ve victimized a lot of girls since then,” she said, addressing Kelly. “Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you," she continued.
Kelly’s trial was seen as a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement ,which culminated in the premiere of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docu-series in early 2019. The R&B singer was indicted on child pornography charges in Illinois in 2008 but was later acquitted.
“No one can undo the harm that has been done to these victims,” said attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the victims who had testified. “But at least it’s time for Mr. Kelly to be accountable.”
Bonjean said she plans to appeal Kelly’s sentence.
“We were prepared for it,” Bonjean said of the sentence. “We are now prepared to fight this appeal.”
Kelly has been jailed in Brooklyn without bail since 2019. He still faces child pornography and obstruction-of-justice charges in Chicago, where the trial is scheduled to begin on August 15, 2022.