R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison in the long-awaited conclusion of his federal sex trafficking case in New York.
Last September, a jury found the disgraced singer guilty of all counts, which included one charge of racketeering related to the sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, and forced labor, as well as eight charges of violating the Mann Act, which outlaws the transportation of a person across state lines for illegal sexual activity.
Addressing the court, Judge Ann M. Donnelly said of the long sentence, “I would have imposed [it] regardless of the guidelines.” According to The New York Times, she spent several minutes revisiting allegations leveled against Kelly, which saw nine women and two men testify that the singer had tormented them with sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
Kelly was accused not only of using his position and fame to lure potential victims, but also of wielding a wide network of enablers and other yes-men to control his victim’s lives while shielding himself from consequences. “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years,” Judge Donnelly said. “You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.”
Charges of sexual misconduct have dogged Kelly since the mid-90s, from the time of his illegal marriage to a then-15-year-old Aaliyah. He was indicted on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2002, but received an acquittal in 2008. That trial remains controversial, and Kelly and two of his associates are currently facing charges in Illinois of bribing and intimidating witnesses in the case.
Despite decades of accusations, Kelly remained a chart-topping superstar, relatively free of legal repercussions until his arrest in 2019. During his time in jail, he’s gone broke, been attacked by an inmate, and complained of gaining weight. This past February he caught COVID-19.
His case has encountered numerous delays, setbacks, and changes of legal strategy, most recently when he hired attorney Jennifer Bonjean — who had successfully overturned the conviction against Bill Cosby — and fired the rest of his legal team. On June 14th, Bonjean asked Judge Donnelly to sentence Kelly to the 10-year mandatory minimum.
“Our position is that the mandatory minimum sentence is appropriate in this case,” Bonjean said. “There is significant mitigating evidence, particularly related to his extremely traumatic childhood that shaped him as an adult.” Bonjean filed this sentencing memorandum under seal, suggesting that the document included intimate details about sexual abuse Kelly suffered as a child.
Meanwhile, prosecutors asked for a sentence exceeding 25 years due to his “long and pervasive history of enticing children to engage in sexual activity.”
In a 31-page sentencing filing, prosecutors wrote, “He lured young girls and boys into his orbit, often through empty or conditioned promises of assistance in developing a career in the entertainment industry or simply by playing into the minors’ understandable desire to meet and spend time with a popular celebrity.”
This is hardly the end of Kelly’s legal troubles; he’s also facing state charges in Illinois and Minnesota, as well as the previously-mentioned federal charges for allegedly paying off witnesses in his 2008 trial.