Sun | Aug 14, 2022

Singer R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in sex trafficking case

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2022 | 2:29 PM
R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on September 17, 2019. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for using his superstardom to subject young fans — some just children — to systematic sexual abuse.

The singer and songwriter, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking last year at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had once wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.

US District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly's exploitation reverberated across their lives.

“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, directly addressing a Kelly who kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast.

“Do you remember that?”

Kelly did not address the court.

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.

The Brooklyn federal court jury convicted him after hearing that he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation that prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, used his “fame, money and popularity” to systematically “prey upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

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 that showed one victim smearing faeces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.

Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.

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