Fallen R&B star R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sex trafficking and abusing young girls as judge tells him ‘the public has to be protected.’
Kelly, 55, was convicted on sex trafficking and racketeering charges last September following a nearly six-week trial that amplified accusations that had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ since the early 2000s.
Judge Ann M. Donnelly handed down Kelly’s sentence on Wednesday, despite the defense lawyers’ request for a sentence of 10 years or less. Prosecutors had asked for at least 25 years.
Judge Donnelly told Kelly he created ‘a trail of broken lives,’ adding that ‘the most seasoned investigators will not forget the horrors your victims endured.’
Kelly learned his fate after his accusers told the court, through tears and anger, that he had preyed on them and misled his fans.
He declined to make a statement prior to the sentencing because of pending litigation, his attorney said.
R Kelly and his attorney Jennifer Bonjean, left, appear during his sentencing hearing in federal court, Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in New York
Outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ which gave voice to accusers who wondered whether their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.
Kelly has been detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his trial. It has not been revealed where Kelly would spend his sentence.
He is still set to stand trial in Chicago on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice. He also faces charges in Minnesota and federal charges of pornography and obstruction in Illinois.
Earlier on Wednesday, several women who testified against Kelly during the trial spoke about how he had promised to mentor them and help them attain stardom, only to subject them to degrading sexual treatment and physical harm. Many said the abuse led to mental health problems that persist.
Kitti Jones, wipes her tears as she gave her statement on Wednesday at R Kelly’s sentencing hearing, and said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave’
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly determined that federal guidelines allowed for a sentence of up to life in prison. Kelly’s lawyers sought 10 years or less.
They argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he ‘experienced 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 hitmaker is known for work including the 1996 hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ and the cult classic ‘Trapped in the Closet,’ a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor, and he later faced criminal child pornography charges related to a different girl in Chicago. A jury there acquitted him in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
All the while, Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.
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.
R Kelly faces several of his accusers during his sentencing hearing for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Wednesday
Seven of them delivered impact statements before he was sentenced.
One of the victims, Angela, stood in court, looked directly at Kelly and called him a ‘Pied Piper’ who ‘lured children with his money and celebrity.’
‘With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,’ she said. ‘You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.’
‘Today we reclaim our names,’ she said. ‘We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were.’
‘I pray that god reaches your soul,’ she said, as Kelly glanced up at her briefly before lowering his eyes back to the table where he sat.
The second victim to speak in court on Wednesday said she never knew that a concert in September of 1994 would change her life forever.
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday.
‘I never knew that going to that concert in September of 1994 was going to change me forever,’ she said.
Addie said she was a fan of the singer Aaliyah. Aaliyah, who R Kelly married when she was 15, died in a plane crash at age 22.
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday
Addie says Kelly sexually assaulted her on the night of his concert and did not see him again until the trial, adding that she regrets staying silent for decades
Addie says Kelly sexually assaulted her on the night of his concert and did not see him again until the trial.
For decades, she stayed silent, because ‘it was a time of silence,’ she said, which is something she says she now regrets.
‘The last four years have been a rude awakening of how my silence has hurt others.’
AT TRIAL IN 2021: Witness ‘Angela,’ a backup dancer for R. Kelly, testified during his sex abuse trial last year. At his sentencing on Wednesday, Angela returned to give an impact statement
Lizette Martinez, one of the women featured in the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ delivered a statement at R. Kelly’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Pictured: Martinez speaking at screening in 2019
Jones claims that in March of that year Kelly brought another of his girlfriend’s over to where he was keeping her and forced her to perform oral sex on Jones. Around that time she claims Kelly also started forcing her to have intercourse with other women – and says he would threaten her if she said no
At Kelly’s sentencing on Wednesday, one of the women featured in the docuseries, Lizette Martinez, spoke to the court with attorney Gloria Allred by her side.
‘January 1995 eventually changed me forever,’ Martinez said, referring to the day she met Kelly at a mall.
Martinez, 17, was an aspiring singer and Kelly had promised to mentor her. But Martinez says he started abusing her two months after they met.
‘I was left in shock, confused and in tears,’ she said.
‘I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through. I am now 45, a mother and I struggle with mental health.’
Kelly did not look at Kelly Martinez as she spoke.
‘Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives,’ she told him.
A fourth victim, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, addressed the court next, detailing how a sweaty Kelly would make her perform oral sex on him after he had returned from playing basketball.
‘I felt special, because someone who was special to the world was interested in me,’ she said.
As she continued on with her statement, Kelly began to speak with his lawyers prompting the witness to stop and hold up her hand.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, looking at Kelly. ‘I don’t want to interrupt his conversation.’
‘No price is too high to pay for your happiness,’ she said. ‘I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.’
The next woman, Kitti Jones, said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave.’
A fifth woman to speak, Kitti Jones, said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave.’
‘Many of us have been waiting for this day to come,’ she added.
The next woman to give her statement, only identified as Faith, spoke directly to Kelly, with her father by her side.
‘I hope you forgive yourself,’ she said as she began to cry. ‘I forgive myself.’
Her father then addressed the court.
‘I didn’t come here to bash Mr. Kelly,’ he said. ‘I do want to ask you, Mr. Kelly, to look at me, man to man, father to father. Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve certainly put myself in your shoes.’
Sonja, also known as Jane Doe No. 3, was the final woman to speak on Wednesday before court broke for lunch.
She had previously testified at trial that she was imprisoned and raped at Kelly’s home in Olympia Fields, Ill. in 2003.
Prior to the hearing on Wednesday, she had emailed a statement to the court that she did not wish to read in full.
But she left the court with a few powerful words.
‘I was scared for my life,’ she said, recalling how Kelly would have people follow her every move over the years.
‘I hope and I pray to God that we can all heal,’ she said.
R Kelly’s sisters Cassandra and Lisa arrived at Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday for the R&B star’s sentencing hearing. The third sister did not give name
US attorney Gloria Allred arrives for the sentencing hearing of US singer R Kelly
Gloria Allred, who is representing the three women who testified against R Kelly, told reporters on Wednesday that ‘no one can undo the harm that has been done to these victims.’
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly is set to impose the sentence at a federal court in Brooklyn after hearing statements from victims and possibly Kelly himself.
‘He’s strong, and we are going to get through this,’ defense lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said on her way into court. Whatever his sentence, Kelly is hopeful his conviction will be overturned on appeal, she said.
Prosecutors are seeking a minimum 25-year term, while the defense says a sentence of 10 years or less is all he deserves.
Kelly’s lawyers argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he ‘experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.’
Attorney for R Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, arrives for the sentencing hearing of R. Kelly at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York, on June 29, 2022
What was R Kelly found guilty of at his trial?
R Kelly stood trial Brooklyn federal court last year after he was accused of being the ringleader of a sex ring involving women and underage girls and boys.
The charges were first brought in a five-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn federal court in July 2019.
In March 2020, he was slapped with additional charges upgrading the case to a nine-count indictment.
The charges relate to allegations involving six alleged victims – five women named as Jane Does in the indictment and the singer Aaliyah. These charges are:
ONE COUNT OF RACKETEERING – GUILTY
The racketeering charge includes 14 underlying acts including: one act of bribery, three acts of sexual exploitation of a child, one act of kidnapping, three acts of forced labor and six acts of violating the Mann Act.
Racketeering charges are used where there is an ‘enterprise’, mob or mafia running organized crime operations.
In this case, Kelly is accused of running a racketeering ‘enterprise’ for two decades made up of his ‘inner circle’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees who would help him recruit women, girls and boys for him to sexually exploit and traffic them around the US.
To convict Kelly on the racketeering charge, jurors had to find him guilty of at least two of the 14 acts.
EIGHT COUNTS OF VIOLATING THE MANN ACT – GUILTY
The Mann Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to traffic people across state lines for prostitution or illegal sexual activity.
Four of these charges relate to an incident involving Jane Doe #5 in 2015 while the other four involve Jane Doe #6 in separate incidents in May 2017 and February 2018.
Three of these charges involve Kelly allegedly exposing the two women to herpes without informing them.
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 their filing earlier this month.
But Kelly’s lawyers argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he ‘experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.’
Outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries Surviving R Kelly, which gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were black women.
Kelly said over 14 hours of interviews with psychiatric experts that his closest relationship growing up was with his mother Joanne.
He recalled watching her perform with her band Six Pack and going to McDonald’s in fond memories of his childhood.
The singer never met his father and said his mother’s death was the most tragic event of his life, and he would frequently visit McDonald’s later to smell the coffee and remember her, Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a letter.
The future R&B star also saw his childhood sweetheart drown when he was a child, and multiple people claimed he was repeatedly abused when he was aged six or seven.
His attorney claims his older sister and a landlord abused him on a ‘weekly basis’, and this may have contributed to his ‘hypersexuality’, Sorrentino claims.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly is set to impose the sentence today at a federal court in Brooklyn after hearing statements from victims and possibly Kelly himself.
They added: ‘His victimization continued into adulthood where, because of his literacy deficiencies, the defendant has been repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him.’
The jury convicted the I Believe I Can Fly hitmaker after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.
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.’
The prosecution team arrives for the sentencing hearing of US singer R. Kelly
Media gathers in front of Brooklyn Federal Court for the sentencing hearing of R. Kelly on Wednesday as the singer is to be sentenced on sex trafficking charges
R Kelly faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced for sex trafficking today at a federal court in New York (pictured in 2019)
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 of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.
Evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect 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 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.
An earlier defense memo suggested prosecutors’ arguments for a higher sentence overreached by falsely claiming Kelly participated in the paying of a bribe to a government official in order to facilitate the illegal marriage.
Kelly’s lawyers also said it was wrong to assert he should get more time because he sexually abused one of his victims — referred to in court as ‘Jane’ — after her parents innocently entrusted him to help her with her musical career.
‘The record shows that Jane’s parents directed Jane to lie to the defendant about her age and then encouraged her to seduce him,’ the papers say.
Kelly has been jailed without bail since in 2019. He’s still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where a trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.
The R&B star, 55, was found guilty of racketeering and other counts last year at a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement (pictured in 2015)
Timeline of R Kelly’s downfall from R&B superstar to ‘sexual predator’
August 1994: At age 27, R. Kelly marries 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah D. Haughton. The couple weds in a secret ceremony arranged by Kelly at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage is annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age. Aaliyah dies in a plane crash seven years later at age 22.
February 1997: Tiffany Hawkins files a complaint against Kelly alleging intentional sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor. The lawsuit is reportedly settled for $250,000 the following January.
August 2001: Tracy Sampson files a lawsuit against Kelly, alleging their sex was illegal under Illinois law because he was in ‘a position of authority’ over her. The case was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
February 2002: The Chicago Sun-Times reported that it received a videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with a minor. The paper reported Chicago police began investigating allegations about Kelly and the same girl three years earlier. At the time, the girl and her parents denies she was having sex with Kelly.
June 2002: Kelly is indicted in Chicago on child pornography charges stemming from the sex tape. He pleads not guilty and is released on $750,000 bail.
January 2003: Kelly is arrested at a Florida hotel on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found photos of him having sex with a girl. Charges are later dropped after the judge ruled police didn´t have a warrant to search Kelly’s house.
September 2005: Kelly’s wife Andrea Kelly asks for an order of protection from her husband, accusing the singer of hitting her when she said she wanted a divorce. The couple confirm they have divorced in 2009.
February 2006: Kelly’s brother, Carey Kelly, says his brother offered him $50,000 and a record deal to say he was the person on the sex video.
May 2008: Kelly’s child pornography trial begins. He is acquitted on all counts the next month after less than a full day of deliberations.
July 2017: BuzzFeed reports on parents’ claims that Kelly brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive ‘cult.’ One woman says she was with Kelly willingly. Following the BuzzFeed report, activists launched the #MuteRKelly movement, calling for boycotts of his music.
April 2018: The Time’s Up campaign, devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, joins the #MuteRKelly social media campaign and pushes for further investigation into Kelly’s behavior, which had come under closer scrutiny over the previous year as women came forward accusing him of sexual coercion and physical abuse. Kelly´s camp responds: ‘We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.’
May 2018: Spotify cuts R. Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its policy on hate content and hateful conduct. Shortly after, Apple and Pandora also stop promoting his music. Kelly’s team pushes back, noting other artists on Spotify had been accused or convicted of crimes.
The same month Faith Rodgers, 20, files a lawsuit accusing R. Kelly of sexual battery, mental and verbal abuse, and knowingly inflicting her with herpes during a yearlong relationship.
January 2019: Lifetime airs the documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ which revisited old allegations against him and brought new ones into the spotlight. The series followed the BBC’s ‘R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,’ released the previous year, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will.
Lady Gaga apologizes for her 2013 duet with Kelly, saying she intended to remove the song, ‘Do What U Want (With My Body),’ from streaming services.
Faith Rogers says Kelly had written a letter the previous October to one of her lawyers, threatening to reveal embarrassing details of her sexual history if she didn’t drop her May 2018 lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse.
Multiple media outlets reports Kelly and his label, Sony subsidiary RCA Records, part ways. Lady Gaga and Celine Dion remove their duets with Kelly from streaming services, and French rock band Phoenix apologizes for collaborating with Kelly in 2013. Kelly continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct.
February 2019: Attorney Michael Avenatti says he gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of Kelly having sex with an underage girl, and that it is not the same evidence used in Kelly’s 2008 trial.
Kelly is arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Kelly’s attorney enters not guilty pleas on the singer’s behalf. Hours later, Kelly posts bail and is released from jail in Chicago.
March 2019: CBS airs interview in which Kelly vehemently denied the sexual abuse charges against him. Later, authorities in Cook County take Kelly into custody after he tells a judge he couldn´t pay $161,000 in back child support he owed his children’s mother.
May 2019: Kelly is charged with 11 new sex-related counts in Chicago. They involve one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.
July 2019: Kelly is indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. A separate indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York included charges of racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child. He is again arrested in Chicago.
A federal judge orders Kelly held in jail without bond after a prosecutor warned he would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.
August 2019: Kelly pleads not guilty to federal charges accusing him of sexually abusing women and girls who attended his concerts, as his lawyers continue to label the alleged victims disgruntled ‘groupies.’
Kelly is charged in Minnesota with prostitution and solicitation related to an allegation that he invited a 17-year-old girl to his hotel room in 2001 and paid her $200 to dance naked with him.
October 2019: Kelly is denied bail in his New York City sex abuse case after a judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him from jail would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses.
December 2019: Kelly is charged by federal prosecutors with paying a bribe in exchange for a ‘fraudulent identification document’ for an unidentified female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah. He later pleads not guilty.
March 2020: Kelly pleads not guilty in Chicago to an updated federal indictment that included child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser, while prosecutors say more charges alleging yet another victim were upcoming.
August 2020: Federal prosecutors announce charges against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
Kelly’s manager is arrested in California on charges that he threatened a shooting at a Manhattan theater two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations that the singer had sexually abused women and girls.
July 2021: Federal prosecutors in Kelly´s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming trial to hear those claims.
August 2021: Kelly’s long-anticipated federal trial begins in New York with opening statements on August 18.
September 2021: After a six-week long trial, the jury find Kelly guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking.