He was among the biggest and most successful names in R&B music, but now R Kelly will spend decades behind bars after being convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking charges last year.
Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday, June 29, in Brooklyn federal court.
The punishment exceeded both the “excess of 25 years” recommended by federal prosecutors and the 10 years requested by the defence, which argued that any longer would be “tantamount to a death sentence”.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly also slapped Kelly with a $100,000 fine, after prosecutors asked for $50,000 to $250,000.
The judge said she would’ve handed down the prison term regardless of sentencing guidelines, adding that: “The public has to be protected from behaviors like this.”
“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.”
His remarks came after seven of Kelly’s victims faced him in court. The women told of his “wickedness,” compared him to a Pied Piper who attracted children with fortune and fame, accused him of grooming and coaching “underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification,” and said he “took away my innocence. ”
The disgraced singer had faced a string of allegations about his behavior with women for years as he racked up hits and awards, while all the time denying any wrongdoing.
But public and legal scrutiny on Kelly increased as more allegations surfaced against him during the #MeToo reckoning, some of which were documented by his victims in the 2019 TV series Surviving R. Kelly.
And those allegations finally caught up with the singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, in a Brooklyn courtroom last September after a six-week trial, when a New York jury returned its verdict.
Kelly sat motionless as he was convicted on one count of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts that included sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, and sex trafficking charges. He was also convicted on eight additional counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law.
Racketeering is most commonly used in organized crime cases but can also be used to prosecute any ongoing coordinated illegal scheme or criminal enterprise to carry out a common purpose.
The verdict was the first criminal conviction against R Kelly.
In 2008, he was acquitted by a Cook County jury of child pornography charges alleging he videotaped himself having sex with a girl as young as 13.
Now Kelly will always be known as a predator after his convictions, said Acting US Attorney from the Eastern District Jacquelyn Kasulis outside the court after the 2021 verdict was returned.
She said that Kelly, who will now faces 10 years to life imprisonment, is “a predator who used his inner circle to ensnare underage girls and young men and women for decades, in a sordid web of sex abuse, exploitation and humiliation.”
And she added: “This conviction would not have been possible without the bravery and resilience of R Kelly’s victims. I applaud their courage in revealing in open court, the painful, intimate and horrific details of their lives with him.”
Victim’s rights attorney Gloria Allred represented three of the six victims who testified in the case.
“First, I used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them. These were not May-October relationships, which is what his defense attorney wanted the jury to believe — these were crimes against children and some adults,” Ms Allred said after the conviction.
“Second, to use the power of his business enterprise and many of his inner circle employees to assist him and enable him in his plan and his scheme to lure his victims to him, isolate them, intimidate them, control them, indoctrinate them, punish them, shame them, and humiliate them
“All of which made Mr Kelly more powerful and more dangerous than many other sexual predators who operate without a network of financial and businesses to support and enable them.”
And she added: “I have been practicing law for 47 years. During this time I have pursued many sexual predators who have committed crimes against women and children.
“Of all the predators that I have pursued, however, Mr. Kelly is the worst, for many reasons.”
Since his conviction, Kelly has sat behind bars at a federal detention center in New York.
In addition to the case for which he was sentenced on June 29, Kelly is also facing pending federal charges in his hometown of Chicago, where he is charged with child pornography and obstruction of justice.
He is due to go to trial in Illinois on 1 August and his lawyers had wanted his New York sentencing postponed until its conclusion.
A judge refused that motion, but did move the sentencing from 4 May to June because of a delay in the filing of a presentence report.