Disgraced R&B star R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sex trafficking and abusing young girls as the judge told him that he taught his victims that ‘love is enslavement and violence’, and ‘the public needs to be protected’.
Kelly, 55, was convicted on sex trafficking and racketeering charges last September following a nearly six-week trial that amplified accusations that had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ since the early 2000s.
Judge Ann M. Donnelly handed down Kelly’s sentence in Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday, despite the defense lawyers’ request for a sentence of 10 years or less. Prosecutors had asked for at least 25 years.
Judge Donnelly told Kelly he created ‘a trail of broken lives,’ adding that ‘the most seasoned investigators will not forget the horrors your victims endured.’
‘These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years,’ she said. ‘You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.’
Kelly, who declined to speak at his sentencing, learned his fate after some of his accusers told the court, through tears and anger, that he had preyed on them and misled his fans. He was also was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his trial. It has not been revealed where Kelly would spend his sentence.
Disgraced R&B star R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sex trafficking and abusing young girls as the judge told him ‘the public has to be protected’
R Kelly and his attorney Jennifer Bonjean, left, during his sentencing hearing in federal court, Wednesday
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his trial. It has not been revealed where Kelly would spend his sentence (pictured in 2019)
What was R Kelly found guilty of at his trial?
R Kelly stood trial Brooklyn federal court last year after he was accused of being the ringleader of a sex ring involving women and underage girls and boys.
The charges were first brought in a five-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn federal court in July 2019.
In March 2020, he was slapped with additional charges upgrading the case to a nine-count indictment.
The charges relate to allegations involving six alleged victims – five women named as Jane Does in the indictment and the singer Aaliyah. These charges are:
ONE COUNT OF RACKETEERING – GUILTY
The racketeering charge includes 14 underlying acts including: one act of bribery, three acts of sexual exploitation of a child, one act of kidnapping, three acts of forced labor and six acts of violating the Mann Act.
Racketeering charges are used where there is an ‘enterprise’, mob or mafia running organized crime operations.
In this case, Kelly is accused of running a racketeering ‘enterprise’ for two decades made up of his ‘inner circle’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees who would help him recruit women, girls and boys for him to sexually exploit and traffic them around the US.
To convict Kelly on the racketeering charge, jurors had to find him guilty of at least two of the 14 acts.
EIGHT COUNTS OF VIOLATING THE MANN ACT – GUILTY
The Mann Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to traffic people across state lines for prostitution or illegal sexual activity.
Four of these charges relate to an incident involving Jane Doe #5 in 2015 while the other four involve Jane Doe #6 in separate incidents in May 2017 and February 2018.
Three of these charges involve Kelly allegedly exposing the two women to herpes without informing them.
Breon S. Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the sentence is a ‘significant’ outcome for all victims of R. Kelly, who he called ‘a predator.’
‘He continued committing his crimes for almost 30 years and avoided punishment — until today.’
‘These are the 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 victims of sexual assault. Victims must be heard, perpetrators must be held accountable, and women and children must be protected.’
He said he hopes the sentencing shows that ‘it doesn’t matter how rich [and] famous’ an abuser is to be brought to justice.
Lizzette Martinez, one of the victims who spoke earlier at the hearing, said she doesn’t think Kelly’s sentence is enough ‘but I’m pleased with it.’
Martinez, described herself to the reporters as an ‘up and coming singer, a girl full of life’ before she met R. Kelly and became ‘a sex slave.’
Gloria Allred, the lawyer for the victims, said she was proud of the them for their fight.
‘They wanted the court to understand their pain,’ she said. ‘Together they were able to fight his power by becoming empowered,’ she added. ‘I’m proud of all of them.’
Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean also spoke, announcing that they do plan to appeal.
‘He’s not a predator,’ Bonjean said in a press conference outside the courthouse following the sentencing.
Bonjean said: ‘He has regrets and he is sad,’ she added. ‘He disagrees with the characterizations that have been made about him.’
Bonjean, who added that Kelly ‘was prepared for it,’ says they plan to appeal, stating: ’30 years in prison is like a life sentence for him.’
The sentence caps a slow-motion fall for Kelly, who was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.
Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t come until the #MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly.’
Kelly’s lawyers had argued he should get no more than 10 years in prison because he had a traumatic childhood ‘involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.’
As an adult with ‘literacy deficiencies,’ the star was ‘repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him,’ his lawyers said.
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor, and he later faced criminal child pornography charges related to a different girl in Chicago. A jury there acquitted him in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
But last year, the jury convicted the I Believe I Can Fly hitmaker after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as ‘Rob’s rules.’
Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.
According to testimony, Kelly gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.
Evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.
Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’ She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
The abuse continued for years while Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.
Kitti Jones, wipes her tears as she gave her statement on Wednesday at R Kelly’s sentencing hearing, and said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave’
R Kelly learned his fate after his accusers, including Kitti Jones, told the court, through tears and anger, that he had preyed on them and misled his fans
Victims stare down R Kelly in court and slam him for using ‘fame and power’ to groom children ‘for your own sexual grafitication’
Earlier on Wednesday, seven women delivered victim impact statements before he was sentenced.
Several testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
One of the victims, Angela, stood in court, looked directly at Kelly and called him a ‘Pied Piper’ who ‘lured children with his money and celebrity.’
‘With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,’ she said. ‘You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.’
‘Today we reclaim our names,’ she said. ‘We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were.’
‘I pray that god reaches your soul,’ she said, as Kelly glanced up at her briefly before lowering his eyes back to the table where he sat.
The second victim to speak in court on Wednesday said she never knew that a concert in September of 1994 would change her life forever.
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday.
‘I never knew that going to that concert in September of 1994 was going to change me forever,’ she said.
Addie said she was a fan of the singer Aaliyah. Aaliyah, who R Kelly married when she was 15, died in a plane crash at age 22.
Addie says Kelly sexually assaulted her on the night of his concert and did not see him again until the trial.
For decades, she stayed silent, because ‘it was a time of silence,’ she said, which is something she says she now regrets.
‘The last four years have been a rude awakening of how my silence has hurt others.’
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday
Lizette Martinez, one of the women featured in the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ delivered a statement at R. Kelly’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Pictured: Martinez speaking at screening in 2019
AT TRIAL IN 2021: Witness ‘Angela,’ a backup dancer for R. Kelly, testified during his sex abuse trial last year. At his sentencing on Wednesday, Angela returned to give an impact statement
One of the women featured in the docuseries, Lizette Martinez, spoke to the court with attorney Gloria Allred by her side.
‘January 1995 eventually changed me forever,’ Martinez said, referring to the day she met Kelly at a mall.
Martinez, 17, was an aspiring singer and Kelly had promised to mentor her. But Martinez says he started abusing her two months after they met.
‘I was left in shock, confused and in tears,’ she said.
‘I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through. I am now 45, a mother and I struggle with mental health.’
Kelly did not look at Kelly Martinez as she spoke.
‘Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives,’ she told him.
A fourth victim, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, addressed the court next, detailing how a sweaty Kelly would make her perform oral sex on him after he had returned from playing basketball.
‘I felt special, because someone who was special to the world was interested in me,’ she said.
As she continued on with her statement, Kelly began to speak with his lawyers prompting the witness to stop and hold up her hand.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, looking at Kelly. ‘I don’t want to interrupt his conversation.’
‘No price is too high to pay for your happiness,’ she said. ‘I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.’
The next woman, Kitti Jones, said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave.’
A fifth woman to speak, Kitti Jones, said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave.’
‘Many of us have been waiting for this day to come,’ she added.
A fourth victim, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, told the court at R Kelly’s sentencin that h would make her perform oral sex on him after he had returned from playing basketball. ‘No price is too high to pay for your happiness,’ she said. ‘I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.’
Jones claims that in March of that year Kelly brought another of his girlfriend’s over to where he was keeping her and forced her to perform oral sex on Jones. Around that time she claims Kelly also started forcing her to have intercourse with other women – and says he would threaten her if she said no
The next woman to give her statement, only identified as Faith, spoke directly to Kelly, with her father by her side.
‘I hope you forgive yourself,’ she said as she began to cry. ‘I forgive myself.’
Her father then addressed the court.
‘I didn’t come here to bash Mr. Kelly,’ he said. ‘I do want to ask you, Mr. Kelly, to look at me, man to man, father to father. Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve certainly put myself in your shoes.’
Sonja, also known as Jane Doe No. 3, was the final woman to speak on Wednesday before court broke for lunch.
She had previously testified at trial that she was imprisoned and raped at Kelly’s home in Olympia Fields, Ill. in 2003.
Prior to the hearing on Wednesday, she had emailed a statement to the court that she did not wish to read in full.
But she left the court with a few powerful words.
‘I was scared for my life,’ she said, recalling how Kelly would have people follow her every move over the years.
‘I hope and I pray to God that we can all heal,’ she said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gloria Allred, who is representing the three women who testified against R Kelly, told reporters on Wednesday that ‘no one can undo the harm that has been done to these victims.’
US attorney Gloria Allred arrives for the sentencing hearing of US singer R Kelly
Timeline of R Kelly’s downfall from R&B superstar to ‘sexual predator’
August 1994: At age 27, R. Kelly marries 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton. The couple weds in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage is annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age. Aaliyah dies in a plane crash seven years later at age 22.
February 1997: Tiffany Hawkins files a complaint against Kelly alleging intentional sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor. The lawsuit is reportedly settled for $250,000 the following January.
August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sex was illegal under Illinois law because he was in ‘a position of authority’ over her. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
February 2002: The Chicago Sun-Times reported that it received a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reported Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents denies she was having sex with Kelly.
June 2002: Kelly is indicted in Chicago on child pornography charges stemming from the sex tape. He pleads not guilty and is released on $750,000 bail.
January 2003: Kelly is arrested at a Florida hotel on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found photos of him having sex with a girl. Charges are later dropped after the judge ruled police didn´t have a warrant to search Kelly’s house.
September 2005: Kelly’s wife Andrea Kelly asks for an order of protection from her husband, accusing the singer of hitting her when she said she wanted a divorce. The couple confirm they have divorced in 2009.
February 2006: Kelly’s brother, Carey Kelly, says his brother offered him $50,000 and a record deal to say he was the person on the sex video.
May 2008: Kelly’s child pornography trial begins. He is acquitted on all counts the next month after less than a full day of deliberations.
July 2017: BuzzFeed reports on parents’ claims that Kelly brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive ‘cult.’ One woman says she was with Kelly willingly. Following the BuzzFeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music.
April 2018: The Time’s Up campaign, devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, joins the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and pushes for further investigation into Kelly’s behavior, which had come under closer scrutiny over the previous year as women came forward accusing him of sexual coercion and physical abuse. Kelly´s camp responds: ‘We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.’
May 2018: Spotify cuts R. Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Shortly after, Apple and Pandora also stop promoting his music. Kelly’s team pushes back, noting other artists on Spotify had been accused or convicted of crimes.
The same month Faith Rodgers, 20, files a lawsuit accusing R. Kelly of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowingly inflicting her with herpes during a yearlong relationship.
January 2019: Lifetime airs the documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series followed the BBC’s ‘R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,’ released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will.
Lady Gaga apologizes for her 2013 duet with Kelly, saying she intended to remove the song, ‘Do What U Want (With My Body),’ from streaming services.
Faith Rogers says Kelly had written a letter the previous October to one of her lawyers, threatening to reveal embarrassing details of her sexual history if she didn’t drop her May 2018 lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse.
Multiple media outlets reports Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, part ways. Lady Gaga and Celine Dion remove their duets with Kelly from streaming services, and French rock band Phoenix apologizes for collaborating with Kelly in 2013. Kelly continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.
February 2019: Attorney Michael Avenatti says he gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of Kelly having sex with an underage girl, and that it is not the same evidence used in Kelly’s 2008 trial.
Kelly is arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Kelly’s attorney enters not guilty pleas on the singer’s behalf. Hours later, Kelly posts bail and is released from jail in Chicago.
March 2019: CBS airs interview in which Kelly vehemently denied the sexual abuse charges against him. Later, authorities in Cook County take Kelly into custody after he tells a judge he couldn´t pay $161,000 in back child support he owed his children’s mother.
May 2019: Kelly is charged with 11 new sex-related counts in Chicago. They involve one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.
July 2019: Kelly is indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child. He is again arrested in Chicago.
A federal judge orders Kelly held in jail without bond after a prosecutor warned he would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.
August 2019: Kelly pleads not guilty to federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing women and girls who attended his concerts, as his lawyers continue to label the alleged victims disgruntled ‘groupies.’
Kelly is charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.
October 2019: Kelly is denied bail in his New York City sex abuse case after a judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him from jail would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses.
December 2019: Kelly is charged by federal prosecutors with paying a bribe in exchange for a ‘fraudulent identification document’ for an unidentified female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah. He later pleads not guilty.
March 2020: Kelly pleads not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser, while prosecutors say more charges alleging yet another victim were upcoming.
August 2020: Federal prosecutors announce charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
Kelly’s manager is arrested in California on charges that he threatened a shooting at a Manhattan theater two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations that the singer had sexually abused women and girls.
July 2021: Federal prosecutors in Kelly´s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming trial to hear those claims.
August 2021: Kelly’s long-anticipated federal trial begins in New York with opening statements on August 18.
September 2021: After a six-week long trial, the jury find Kelly guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking.