R&B star R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using his superstardom to subject young fans — some just children — to systematic sexual abuse.
R kelly was convicted of over sex trafficking last year at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had once wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.
USA District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence on Wednesday after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly’s exploitation reverberated across their lives.
“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?”
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Kelly did not address the court.
This sentence caps a slow-motion fall for Kelly, who 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.
Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct did not come until the #MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly.
R Kelly’s 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.
The song writter 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 R 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, R 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.
R 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.
Some Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
The accusers R kelly 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”.
While Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.