In September 2021, a New York District Court found R&B legend R. Kelly, real name Robert Kelly, guilty of a total of nine charges of racketeering and sex trafficking. His offenses include a violation of the Mann Act, an anti-sex trafficking law in the US prohibiting the transport of anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”
Disgraced singer-songwriter R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Wednesday, marking the end of a six-week trial in Brooklyn that included testimony from dozens of witnesses, including those who accused the 55-year-old of both sexual and physical abuse.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York was aiming for Kelly to be given at least 25 years behind bars, per a June 8 memo. The filing set forth that Kelly, now 55, should spend the rest of his life behind bars due to the fact he “avoided punishment for almost 30 years and must now be held to account.”
Kelly’s attorneys argued their client should only serve a decade behind bars because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”
During sentencing Wednesday afternoon, US District Judge Ann M. Donnelly stated to the court that “the public has to be protected from behaviors like this.”
“These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years,” Donnelly said, as reported by the New York Times.
The judge recounted a number of testimonies during sentencing, highlighting Kelly’s pattern of sexual abuse and violence against women, girls, and boys.
Kelly’s legal team plans to appeal the sentencing.
“We were prepared for it,” said defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who represented disgraced comedian Bill Cosby in a civil case he lost earlier this month. “We are now prepared to fight this appeal.”
Federal prosecutors say Kelly used his “deep network” and “larger-than-life musical persona” to gain access to teenagers and young adults–“many of whom were particularly vulnerable.”
“The government has little doubt that if afforded an opportunity to offend again, the defendant would do so,” prosecutors said earlier this month. “He poses a serious danger to the public.”
Lizzette Martinez, a woman featured in the documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ was accompanied by her attorney Gloria Allred when she took the stand to provide a witness statement.
“January 1995 eventually changed me forever,” Martinez testified, detailing that she was a 17-year-old aspiring singer when she met Kelly in a mall.
Now 45, Martinez told the court that she was “left in shock, confused, and in tears” when Kelly, who promised to mentor her, began to abuse her.
“Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives,” Martinez told Kelly, who did not make eye contact.
“I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through,” she said. “I am now 45, a mother and I struggle with mental health.”
Rumors and even footage of Kelly’s misdeeds with minors and women have been circulating since the 90s, around the same time Kelly married teenage R&B artist Aaliyah. Despite dozens of alleged victims coming forward over the decades, accountability appeared to avoid Kelly until the 2019 documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” coincided with the #MeToo movement.
The intersection of the #MuteRKelly and #MeToo movements drummed up public support for victims seeking litigation against the Grammy-award-winning singer. Kelly is still facing a number of criminal charges in Chicago, Illinois, and Minnesota.
Kelly has remained behind bars since his initial arrest in July 2019. The singer-songwriter did not take the stand during trial.