After being found guilty of using his fame and money to lure women and minor girls into his orbit for sex over a period of decades, R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in jail on Wednesday.
The verdict was handed down nine months after 55-year-old Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and sex offenses in a trial that heightened allegations that had followed the singer of the Grammy-winning song “I Believe I Can Fly” for two decades.
The sentencing came after several accusers, some of whom were tearful, told the judge about how Kelly promised to mentor them and help them attain stardom, only to subject them to degrading sexual treatment and physical harm.
He was convicted on nine criminal charges, including one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
Several of Kelly’s accusers spoke in court in New York City, while visibly upset and crying about how he had taken advantage of 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 Kelly, who kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast.
“Do you remember that?” she asked.
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
Kelly’s conviction, according to a third woman who spoke to the court while sniffling and crying, restored her faith in the legal system.
After the woman attended a concert when she was 17 years old, she claimed Kelly victimized her.
“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.”
One of the accused victims was the singer Aaliyah, whom authorities claim Kelly falsely wed at the age of 15 in order to cover up past abuse. Aaliyah passed away in 2001.
However, Kelly did not speak during Wednesday’s hearing but has repeatedly denied sexual abuse accusations.
Prosecutors had urged a prison sentence of more than 25 years, saying Kelly had demonstrated a “callous disregard” for his victims and shown no remorse.
The sentencing puts an end to Kelly’s slow-motion decline. Kelly is most known for her work on the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part story of sexual betrayal and intrigue, and the 1996 song “I Believe I Can Fly.”
He was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He beat child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, when a jury acquitted him.
Following Brooklyn federal court jury convicted the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said Wednesday, “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.”
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