R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in sex trafficking case
Associated Press | 6/30/2022, 6 p.m.
NEW YORK - Disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced Wednes- day to 30 years in prison for using his fame to sexually abuse young fans, including some who were just children, in a systematic scheme that went on for decades.
Through tears and anger, several of Mr. Kelly’s accusers told a court in New York, and the singer himself, that he had misled and preyed upon them.
“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 Mr. Kelly, who kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast.
“Do you remember that?” she asked.
Mr. Kelly, 55, didn’t give a statement and showed no reaction on hearing his penalty, which also included a $100,000 fine. He has denied wrongdoing, and plans to appeal his conviction.
The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling songwriter was found guilty last year of racketeering and sex trafficking at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had previously wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.
Victims “are no longer the preyed-on individuals we once were,” another one of his accusers said at the sentencing.
“There wasn’t a day in my life, up until this moment, that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls,” she added outside court.
The woman said Mr. Kelly victimized her after she went to a concert when she was 17.
“I was afraid, naive and didn’t know how to handle the situation,” she said, so she didn’t speak up at the time.
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.”
Mr. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said she was “devastated” by the sentence and saddened by what she had heard.
“He’s a human being. He feels what other people are feeling. But that doesn’t mean that he can accept responsibility in the way that the government would like him to and other people would like him to. Because he disagrees with the characterizations that have been made about him,” she said.
“I hope this sentencing serves as its own testimony that it doesn’t matter how powerful, rich or famous your abuser may be or how small they make you feel — justice only hears the truth,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said Wednesday.
At the trial, evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Mr. 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 Mr. 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.
Mr. Kelly didn’t testify at his trial, but his then-lawyers portrayed his accusers as girlfriends and groupies who weren’t forced to do anything against their will and stayed with him because they enjoyed the perks of his lifestyle.
His current 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.