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R Kelly sentenced to 30 years in prison

By | Published on Thursday 30 June 2022

R Kelly

R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty in the New York courts last year of establishing and running a criminal enterprise in order to sexually and physically abuse women and teenagers.

The musician continues to deny all the allegations that have been made against him, both during the criminal case in New York and elsewhere. Meanwhile, during the sentencing proceedings, his legal team pushed for a more lenient sentence of no more than ten years, arguing that Kelly had been abused as a child, and that that abuse may have led to his “hypersexuality” as an adult. The defence lawyers also insisted that their client no longer posed a risk to the public.

However, judge Ann Donnelly was not persuaded by those arguments. She said that Kelly had demonstrated an “indifference to human suffering” and that he had taught his numerous victims that “love is enslavement and violence”.

Ahead of Kelly’s sentencing, the judge heard impact statements from seven of those victims. One, named as Angela, addressed the musician in court, saying: “With every addition of a new victim you grew in wickedness, cockiness, diminishing any form of humanity or self-awareness, which soon became the breeding ground for your God-like complex. You were doing, saying and encouraging despicable things that no one should be doing. We reclaim our names from beneath the shadows of your afflicted trauma”.

After Donnelly had confirmed Kelly’s three decade sentence, the same victim told reporters: “I started this journey 30 years ago, I was fourteen years old when I encountered Robert Sylvester Kelly. 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”.

“I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome”, she added. “Thirty years [is how long] that he did this and 30 years is what he got”.

Another of the musician’s victims, Lizzette Martinez, said: “Today was a very special but hard day for us. This happened to me a very long time ago, I was seventeen then and I am 45 today. I never thought I’d see him be held accountable, the atrocious things he did to children”.

“I don’t know what else to say, except that I’m grateful”, she went on. “I am grateful that Robert Sylvester Kelly is away and will stay away and will not be able to harm anyone else”.

Breon Peace, US Attorney for the Eastern District Of New York, and Steve K Francis, Acting Executive Associate Director at Homeland Security Investigations, also issued a statement welcoming the sentencing.

Peace wrote: “R Kelly used his fame, fortune and enablers to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification, while many turned a blind eye. Through his actions, Kelly exhibited a callous disregard for the devastation his crimes had on his victims and has shown no remorse for his conduct”.

“With today’s sentence he has finally and appropriately been held accountable for his decades of abuse, exploitation and degradation of teenagers and other vulnerable young people”, he added. “We hope that today’s sentence brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victims, including those who bravely testified at trial, and serves as long overdue recognition that their voices deserve to be heard and their lives matter”.

Meanwhile, Francis stated: “Robert Kelly is a prolific serial predator who utilised his wealth and fame to prey on the young and vulnerable by dangling promises of fame, fortune and stardom for his own sexual gratification. For nearly 30 years, Kelly and his accomplices silenced his victims through bribery, intimidation, blackmail and physical violence, confident they were immune to justice”.

“Today’s sentence is a victory which belongs to the survivors of Kelly’s abuse”, he added. “These brave women and men came forward, despite threats to their own personal safety, and were forced to relive the pain of the most traumatic days of their lives to tell the truth and make their voices heard”.

Allegations of abuse were made against Kelly for decades, of course, though the first time that led to criminal charges in the 2000s he was acquitted. Things escalated following the airing in 2019 of the programme ‘Surviving R Kelly’, which resulted in the star being charged in multiple US states. At last year’s trial in New York a number of his victims gave harrowing testimonies of the abuse they had suffered while living or touring with the musician.

The musician didn’t testify during last year’s trial and didn’t speaking during yesterday’s sentencing either. However, his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said her client was “devastated” by the length of the jail term. He will now appeal the sentence, in addition to appealing last year’s guilty verdict.

Because there were charges in multiple states, the legal case against Kelly also continues elsewhere in the US, and he faces a trial in his home city of Chicago in August.

While it’s hoped yesterday’s sentencing will bring some closure to some of Kelly’s victims, with the Chicago trial upcoming and the appeals in New York underway, it seems his crimes will remain in the spotlight for sometime yet.

And arguably a key aspect of this whole saga that has so far not been subject to so much scrutiny is the extent to which those working with Kelly in the music industry were aware of his criminal conduct, and why they continued do work with him until the mid-2010s.