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R Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison on Federal Racketeering and Sex Trafficking Charges

Disgraced R&B superstar R Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday (June 30) per the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, following his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges.

Mislead and Preyed Upon His Victims…

Disgraced R&B superstar Robert Sylvester Kelly, also known as the “King of Pop-Soul” lacked a human soul as he continued to mislead and prey on his victim for years. Now, the 55-year-old multiple-Grammy Awards winner has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using his fame to sexually abuse young fans, including some who were just children, in a systematic scheme that went on for decades.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly, 55, to more than 25 years behind bars, while his defense attorneys asked for 10 or fewer, saying prosecutors’ request was “tantamount to a life sentence.”

District Court Judge Ann Donnelly stated while delivering the judgement, “You left in your wake a trail of broken lives. She also considered Kelly’s own traumatic childhood, during which his attorneys said he was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member and a landlord. “It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behaviour. It most surely is not an excuse, the judge said. 

Kelly remained quiet as advised by his attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who said he would not address the court, pointing to the other criminal case faced by Kelly, but said before the sentence was read that her client “rejects that he is this monster.” A jury convicted Kelly last year in September on nine counts:

  • One charge of racketeering, and
  • Eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law.

Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.” The five week-trial was conducted in Brooklyn and several testimonies from victims were taken.

The court also heard from people involved with orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was an adult after she believed she’d gotten pregnant. The victims’ wounds will take time to heal but Kelly’s sentence surely comes as a relief.

Impact Statement: No One Can Undo The Harm

Prior to the sentencing, seven of Kelly’s victims gave impact statements including Jane Doe 2, who testified at the trial. She said, “It’s been 23 years since we knew each other, and you’ve victimized a lot of girls since then. Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you.”

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the victims, said: “No one can undo the harm that has been done to these victims. But at least it’s time for Mr Kelly to be accountable.” Jovante Cunningham, a former backup singer for Kelly, praised the sentence and said: “I started this journey 30 years ago. 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. I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome.”

Kelly Suffered Childhood Trauma…

In over 14 hours of interviews with psychiatrist experts, Kelly revealed that he was very close to his mother while growing up. His earliest memories were watching his mom perform as a singer in a band called “Six Pack,” and he would often accompany her to McDonald’s where she would drink coffee and they would share a pastry.

Kelly revealed that he never saw his father and described his mother’s death as the most tragic thing that could happen to him. He said he would visit McDonald’s frequently to smell the coffee and remember her, according to a letter filed by Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

“To me, the ‘M’ stands for mom. Going to McDonald’s is always being around my mother,” Kelly said. Not only this, his childhood was marked by trauma.  Kelly was repeatedly sexually abused beginning when he was a 6 or 7-year-old boy, his attorney wrote, saying he was abused by his older sister and also a landlord, at times on a “weekly basis”, which contributed to his hypersexuality. Well, nothing is an excuse for what he did to the many victims.

Some Who Still Support The Monster…

Kelly’s sentence hasn’t come easy. Ahead of the sentencing, a Chicago man named Christopher Gunn who had attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged with making threats against the three US attorneys who prosecuted Kelly. Among the letters that asked for a shorter sentence for Kelly was one written by Diana Copeland.

Diana, Kelly’s former assistant who testified as a government witness, said she wrote a letter in support of Kelly because it was the “right thing to do.” She wrote: “God doesn’t want us to throw humans away. If we have the audacity to care for the perpetrators as well as the victims, we can all rise.”

Joycelyn Savage, who was considered a victim of Kelly’s by prosecutors, also remains a supporter. “Robert and I are deeply in love and it breaks my heart that the government has created a narrative that I’m a victim,” Savage wrote. “I’m a grown woman, and can speak for myself which is why I wanted to provide this letter to the court.” In her letter, Savage revealed she is now engaged to Kelly.
Kelly is being held at a federal detention facility in Brooklyn and is expected to be moved back to Chicago, where he faces another federal trial in August on child pornography and obstruction charges. What do you think about the judgment? 
Mallika
I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.
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