NEW YORK: R Kelly was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison, following the multiplatinum R&B singer’s conviction for exploiting his stardom and wealth over decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex.
The sentence was imposed nine months after Kelly, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex crimes, in a trial that amplified accusations that had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit I Believe I Can Fly for two decades.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn federal court said the evidence reflected Kelly’s ‘indifference to human suffering’ and ‘sheer brutality’ toward his victims.
“This case is not about sex. It’s about violence and cruelty and control,” Donnelly told Kelly. “You left in your wake a trail of broken lives.”
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is among the most prominent people convicted of sexual misbehavior during the #MeToo movement against such conduct by prominent men.
He did not speak during yesterday’s hearing, but has repeatedly denied sexual abuse accusations. After the sentence was read, his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said Kelly was ‘devastated’ by the sentence but that he would appeal.
“Thirty years in prison is like a life sentence for him,” Bonjean said.
The sentencing came after several accusers, some of whom were tearful, told the judge about how Kelly promised to mentor them and help them attain stardom, only to subject them to degrading sexual treatment and physical harm.
Many said the abuse led to mental health problems that persist.
Kelly wore a black face mask and beige prison clothing to his sentencing.
Several accusers testified during the 5-1/2 week trial about how Kelly would demand that his victims strictly obey his rules. These included needing his permission go to the bathroom, calling him ‘Daddy’, and writing ‘apology letters’ that purported to absolve Kelly of wrongdoing, among others.
The alleged victims included the singer Aaliyah, who prosecutors said Kelly fraudulently married when she was 15 to conceal earlier abuse. Aaliyah died in 2001.