Disgraced US singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, after being sentenced for sex trafficking.
The R&B artist, 55, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was convicted last September in New York on nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking crimes.
The sentencing came after the court heard impact statements from seven women, who were anonymised as ‘Jane Does’. They explained how the singer used his fame and power to exploit them.
One victim said: “I literally wished I would die because of how you made me feel”. Another victim, known only as Angela, meanwhile, referred to the singer as “the pied piper of R&B”.
Handing down the sentence at the federal court in Brooklyn, US district judge Ann Donnelly spoke directly to Kelly, saying: “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned, and regularly executed for almost 25 years. You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.”
Lawyers for the singer say they will appeal the decision, which comes after years of sexual misconduct allegations being levelled at him. These allegations included a six-part documentary titled Surviving R Kelly, which aired in January 2019 on the US TV network Lifetime and detailed numerous victim’s stories of sexual abuse and misconduct carried out by Kelly.
Across the six-week trial, jurors heard how Kelly had trafficked women between different US states, with the help of managers and members of his entourage, whilst also subjecting the women to perverse acts when they were underage.
The singer had promised to mentor many of the victims and help them in the music industry but instead went on to systematically abuse them. Many described how he would demand they follow strict rules and required his permission to eat or go to the bathroom.
“With every addition of a new victim you grew in wickedness, cockiness, diminishing any form of humanity or self-awareness, which soon became the breeding ground for your God-like complex,” said one victim.
“You were doing, saying and encouraging despicable things that no one should be doing. We reclaim our names from beneath the shadows of your afflicted trauma,” she added.
Jurors also heard how, in 1994, Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry singer Aaliyah when she was 15, using a certificate that listed her age as 18. The marriage was annulled months later.
Kelly did not address the court, nor did he react when the verdict was handed down. He has been detained at the Metropolitan detention centre in Brooklyn since the verdict last September.
While prosecutors sought a minimum 25-year term, Kelly’s defence pushed for a sentence of 10 years or less, arguing he should receive a lesser sentence in part because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence”.
Kelly faces further legal action in August, when he goes on trial again in Chicago on charges of possessing child sex images and obstruction. He is also set to face sex abuse charges in courts in Illinois and Minnesota.