R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday on federal sex trafficking charges during a hearing in New York before U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly. He was also sentenced to five years of probation and fined $100,000.
Prosecutors have recommended that the Chicago R&B starwhile the defense pleaded for a sentence of 10 years or less.
Kelly, 55, was.
At a post-sentence press conference, Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, thanked the women for coming forward, saying they had been “heard and believed” and that “justice had finally been returned”.
“R. Kelly is a predator and as a result of our prosecution, he will serve a long prison term for his crimes,” he said.
Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s attorney, said he was “obviously devastated” by the sentencing, but noted that “it was not a big surprise”. She added that her team was considering appealing.
Women’s advocate Gloria Allred called Kelly a “skilled sexual predator” and applauded the “brave” women who came forward.
“Together, they were able to fight his power by becoming empowered young women themselves,” she said at a press conference Wednesday outside the courthouse.
“It’s been a long road to justice, but they’ve all been very brave and sacrificed a tremendous amount of time to cooperate and testify,” she later added.
A woman who identified herself as Lizzette Martinez said she was 17 at the time of her alleged abuse. She is now 45 years old.
“I never thought I would be here to see him held accountable for the atrocities he did to children,” she said. “I don’t know what else to say other than I’m grateful.”
Another woman, who identified herself as Jovante, said she was 14 when she “met” Kelly.
“There wasn’t a day in my life, until this moment, that I believed this justice system would work for black and brown girls,” she said, adding that she was “happy” and “overwhelmed” by condemnation.
The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer’s misconduct has come under renewed scrutiny after a 2019 docuseries titled “Surviving R. Kelly” aired, in which accusers spoke candidly about their experiences with him. Some said they were ordered to sign non-disclosure forms and were subjected to threats and violence.
During Wednesday’s court proceedings, the victims came forward, some in tears, saying Kelly abused and abused them and cheated on her fans. Kelly, who made no eye contact with the victims as they delivered their remarks, stared straight ahead or down with his hands resting on the defense table.
One victim, identified in court as Stephanie, said Kelly had decades of freedom without remorse and said she hoped he would go to jail for the rest of his life. “You made me do things that broke my spirit…I literally wished I was dead because of how you made me feel.”
A victim identified as Angela said Kelly had “manipulated” millions of people into believing his perception of himself and took away the voices of his victims. “Today, me and so many of your victims took it back,” she said. “Today we sought to be heard…we are no longer the prey of individuals.”
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment when she was underage, and later faces criminal charges of child pornography related to another girl. A Chicago jury acquitted him in 2008, and Kelly settled the lawsuit.
Evidence has also surfaced over the years regarding the late R&B singer Aaliyah. Witnesses said they got married in matching tracksuits using a fake license that said she was 18, not 15. Kelly was 27 at the time. Aaliyah, whose music Kelly produced, died in a plane crash in 2001.
Kelly, who did not testify at trial, denied any wrongdoing.
He has been jailed without bail since 2019. He still faces child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago. This
Sophie Reardon contributed reporting.