Embattled R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday by a federal court in New York.
R. Kelly’s sentence comes months after being first convicted of nine counts of racketeering and sex crimes brought against him by prosecutors. The allegations are that Kelly used his star power to lure young women, some of whom were children, into a major sex trafficking ring and subject them to systematic sexual abuse.
In handing down the sentence, presiding U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly did not mince words as she addressed Kelly.
“You were a person who had great advantages — worldwide fame and celebrity and untold money,” she said. “You took advantage of their hopes and dreams, holding teenagers in your house trapped. You were at the top of your organization and you raped and beat them, separated them from their families and forced them to do unspeakable things,” the judge told a dejected-looking Kelly.
“Although sex was certainly a weapon that you used, this is not a case about sex. It’s a case about violence, cruelty and control,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly added.
Shortly after the sentencing, Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean pushed back against the sentence noting that there are plans to appeal the case. In a press conference, she said that the singer was not guilty as there was no enterprise which is the basis of the conviction for the RICO charge to stick.
“These were isolated events that happened many years ago and The government simply tried to plead around the Statute of Limitations to bring it in a RICO charge which was inappropriate,” she said.
Bonjean added, “All I can tell you is there was no enterprise, it was one man with allegations by a number of women which doesn’t make it an enterprise.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, several of Kelly’s victims and accusers also addressed the court as they recounted Kelly’s traumatic actions while posing as one of the greatest R&B artists.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” said one unnamed survivor.
“Do you remember that?” the survivor asked Kelly, who kept his head and eyes down.
R. Kelly was also fined $100,000. Defense lawyers for Kelly had unsuccessfully pleaded with the court to sentence him to no more than 10 years in prison because he himself was a victim of sexual assault, having a traumatic childhood “involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”
His attorney added that Kelly was also illiterate and was “repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him.”
Kelly’s fall from being the King of R&B has been long coming. The allegations against him span decades going as far back as the 1990s. He was first sued by a survivor, a minor, in 1997 who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment by the singer. He also faced criminal charges for child pornography, but that case resulted in an acquittal in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
The current case was brought against him after several victims and survivors complained that the singer had a history of sex abuse, and some of the victims were also children. In the current case, the prosecution led evidence that R. Kelly’s managers and aides helped find young girls for him. He even had a scheme to keep the victims obedient, including shaming videos and punishment.
The prosecutors argued that this amounted to a criminal enterprise and is against the RICO Act.
Kelly was accused of being “perverse and sadistic,” and he contained his victims by forcing them to sign nondisclosure forms and otherwise threatened them or punished them with violent spankings for violating “Rob’s rules.” One such tactic was a film of a victim rubbing feces on her face as punishment recorded by the artist.
He also made videos and sex tapes of his encounters with the minors, and quite a number of his survivors testified that they contracted herpes from Kelly, who did not disclose that he had an STD.
Kelly did not take the stand to testify and pleaded not guilty to the charges despite the mounting evidence against him. His defense was that his victims were angry “groupies” who were free and consenting participants in his schemes.
Even though his New York trial is now over, he is still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago. The trial for that case is set for August 15.