American R&B singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing dozens of underage girls over the past decades.
The 55 year old was found guilty in Brooklyn federal court in September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a federal law addressing sex trafficking.
Eleven of the many survivors of Kelly’s abuse testified during the trial, often through tears, about the sexual, emotional, physical, and verbal abuse he inflicted upon them. Many were teenagers when the abuse began, and for some, it went on for years.
For the victims, R. Kelly’s sentencing in New York on Wednesday has been a long wait, arriving after decades of accusations of sexual and psychological abuse.
In a sentencing memorandum released earlier this month, federal prosecutors recommended that Kelly be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison, saying he has “shown no remorse or respect for the law” and “poses a serious danger to the public.”
Kelly has an extensive history of abuse dating back to at least the early 1990s. In 1994, the 27-year-old Kelly married the R&B singer Aaliyah, who was just 15 at the time. He was indicted on child pornography charges in 2008 over a video that allegedly showed him having sex with and urinating on a 14-year-old girl, but he was found not guilty after the girl and her family did not testify.
Though Kelly did not appear to react at any point as several women presented powerful victim impact statements in court prior to his sentencing, recounting, the psychological effects of his abuse years down the line.
A woman identified as Addie, who testified during the trial that Kelly raped her after his show when she was 17 — days after he married Aaliyah — told the court on Tuesday that she wanted him to get a life sentence “so he cannot cause any more pain or suffering to others.”
Another woman identified as Stephanie, who was 17 when Kelly began abusing her, said, “What you did has left a permanent stain on my life I’ll never be able to wash away. Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you.”
After the sentence, US Attorney Breon Peace said in a press conference that Kelly had continued committing crimes for nearly 30 years and had “avoided punishment until today.”
His conviction in 2021 was the first time Kelly had been found guilty of sex crimes in spite of the public nature of his marriage to Aaliyah, parents of the victims had told police Kelly was allegedly holding their daughters against their will in a “sex cult.”
The victims added that Threats were one of R. Kelly’s main tools in keeping those around him from speaking out. Both victims and employees of Kelly’s were made to write “collateral” letters containing embarrassing falsehoods, such as claiming they’d stolen money from Kelly or been molested by family members, that could be used to blackmail them in case he was ever arrested.
Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former manager, testified under subpoena about Kelly’s illegal marriage to the 15-year-old Aaliyah, revealing that she had had a pregnancy scare and Kelly had believed marrying her would protect him from legal action. Smith admitted to bribing a welfare office employee to obtain a fake ID saying Aaliyah was 18 so that the marriage could proceed. The minister who officiated also testified under subpoena, saying he was asked to give his word that he would never speak about it after refusing to sign an NDA. Kelly left to go back on tour right after the 10-minute ceremony, and according to Addie’s testimony, he raped her in his dressing room mere days later when she was 17.
Robert Sylvester Kelly popularly known as R Kelly is a recording artist, who was credited with helping to redefine R&B and hip hop in the 90s.