R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in New York sex trafficking case

Disgraced musician R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday in federal court in New York.

US District Judge Ann Donnelly sentenced the R&B star after she and the court heard testimony from Kelly’s victims and also ordered her to pay a $100,000 fine, according to the Associated Press.

“Although sex was certainly a weapon you used, this is not a case about sex. It is a case about violence, cruelty and control,” the judge told the multi-platinum singer, who was convicted of federal sex trafficking and racketeering in September.

Kelly, 55, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, came face-to-face with her accusers again during her sentencing hearing in Brooklyn as several of the women recounted the pain she inflicted on them, telling her “they are no longer the prisoners.” ”. about the people we once were,” the AP said.

“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I’d die because of how bad you made me feel. Do you remember?” a woman asked the fallen R&B star in Brooklyn court as she awaited sentencing.

Another victim said the Grammy Award winner, known for the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the raunchy musical odyssey “Trapped in the Closet,” manipulated fans into believing he was someone other than the man he saw the jury. Another said the verdict had restored her faith in the justice system.

The emotional sentencing hearing came more than nine months after a federal jury in New York convicted the “I’m a Flirt” singer on nine counts, including sex trafficking and racketeering, for coercing women, as well as underage boys and girls, to have sexual relations. .

Kelly has been held at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center since the September verdict. The musician he kept his hands crossed and looked down as he listened to witnesses, the AP reported. She has denied any wrongdoing and plans to appeal his conviction.

Earlier this month, prosecutors called for Kelly to spend “more than 25 years” behind bars, arguing he is a danger to the public. Prosecutors also pointed to her lack of remorse for exploiting her fame to lure victims.

Kelly’s defense team pushed for the minimum sentence of 10 years or less, arguing that Kelly “experienced a traumatic childhood involving prolonged and severe childhood sexual abuse, poverty and violence” and that her victimization continued into adulthood, where she was “repeatedly let down and cheated”. he was financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him” because of his literacy deficiencies.

After a long-awaited six-week trial last summer, a federal jury concluded that the Grammy winner had used his celebrity status to procure and then mentally and sexually abuse girls and young women over a 25-year period. The operation, which involved a network of managers and assistants who helped Kelly meet girls and keep them obedient and quiet, amounted to a criminal enterprise (hence the racketeering charge). They also found that Kelly violated the law against sex trafficking known as the Mann Act.

In this courtroom sketch, R. Kelly and his attorney Jennifer Bonjean, left, appear during his sentencing hearing in federal court in New York.

(Elizabeth Williams/Associated Press)

“This is a significant result for all the victims of R. Kelly and especially the survivors who so bravely testified to the horrific and sadistic abuse they endured,” US Atty. Breon Peace said at a post-sentencing news conference outside the courthouse. “R. Kelly is a predator and as a result of our prosecution, he faces a long prison sentence for his crime.

“He continued to commit his crimes for almost 30 years and avoided punishment until today. Today’s sentence showed that the witnesses retained control of their lives and their future. These are voices of mostly black and brown women and children who were heard and believed…justice was finally achieved. This is a victory for them, for justice, and for future sexual assault survivors.”

Steve Francis, associate executive director of Homeland Security Investigations, added that Kelly’s sentence “sends a clear message that no amount of money or fame is enough to evade justice” or buy immunity and that “the United States government will hold him accountable for any atrocity.” you commit.”

“While we are disappointed with the sentence, we are looking forward to taking Mr. Kelly’s appeal to the Second Circuit,” Kelly’s defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said in an email to The Times. “We continue to maintain that the government overcharged and then failed to prove racketeering and Mann Act violations.”

Earlier this month, Bonjean represented comedian Bill Cosby in a civil trial that went unfavorable for the star of “The Cosby Show” in Los Angeles Superior Court. A civil jury found Cosby liable for the sexual abuse of a teenage Judy Huth in the 1970s, and he was ordered to pay $500,000.

Kelly’s sentencing had been postponed since May because a pre-sentence report had not been filed, according to CBS. At the time, the judge also denied his attorney’s request to postpone sentencing until after the musician’s trial this August in a separate federal case in his hometown of Chicago.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have dogged the hitmaker for decades, but were repeatedly brushed aside as he built a musical empire on his sexually explicit songwriting, with titles like “Ignition,” “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’ ‘”. For a long time, the singer-producer seemed invincible, evading criminal responsibility despite horrific accusations involving young women and children, including those stemming from his marriage to musical protégé Aaliyah Haughton, who died in a plane crash in 2001. at 22 years old. (According to court testimony, Kelly molested her when she was 13 or 14 and forged documents so he could marry her when she was 15 and he was 27.)

But, as with other famous and powerful men, the accusations caught up with the singer in 2018 following the #MeToo movement.

Widespread public condemnation came in conjunction with Lifetime’s Emmy-nominated docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which allowed several of his accusers to share their stories. The saga and its 2020 follow-up, “The Reckoning,” spawned the viral #MuteRKelly campaign that began to interfere with the musician’s ability to perform on stage.

In early 2019, RCA Records dropped Kelly, and within weeks, a grand jury in Cook County, Illinois indicted him on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Nine of those charges identified victims between the ages of 13 and 16. Kelly then sat down — and stood up — during her infamous CBS interview with Gayle King, during which he fretted over questions about his legal troubles.

Kelly’s trial was repeatedly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it finally took place last August. Kelly’s attorneys argued that his own history as an abused child might have led to his adult “hypersexuality.”

Kelly’s upcoming trial in Chicago relates to federal child pornography and obstruction of justice charges stemming from allegations that he videotaped himself having sex with underage girls, paid hush money and intimidated witnesses to cover up his crimes. alleged crimes, as well as multiple sexual assaults and sexual assaults. abuse charges in cook county. He has pleaded not guilty.

Experts have said the separate state charges could potentially be dropped due to the singer’s lengthy prison sentence in New York. However, it is unlikely that the federal charges will be dropped in Chicago.

The singer also faces a solicitation charge in Minnesota; He is accused of offering a 17-year-old girl $200 to take off her clothes and dance in 2001.

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