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R. Kelly Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison For Sex Trafficking

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Kelly faces several more cases across the United States for decades of sexual-related crimes and racketeering.

R&B Singer R. Kelly got sentenced to 30 years in prison, months after being convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering. U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly handed down the sentence in Brooklyn, New York, after several of Kelly’s victims angrily addressed him at the hearing.

For over two decades, the R&B singer, also known as Robert Sylvester Kelly, had faced allegations of sexual abuse. Several allegations revolve around his predatory pursuit of teenage girls at the beginning of his career in the 1990s.

In September 2021, he was found guilty of eight counts of sex trafficking and one of racketeering in a New York court, and on Wednesday, he got sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Kelly has been repeatedly accused of sexually abusing young adults and minors throughout his career. He faced multiple civil suits and was indicted by criminal courts in Chicago, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota. He repeatedly denied the charges. The court also heard how in 1994, Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry his underage protégé, Aaliyah, when she was 15, seven years before the singer died in a plane crash. In 2002, he was indicted but eventually acquitted on 21 counts of making child pornography. 

In May 2018, the Women of Color branch of the Time’s Up movement called for a boycott of Kelly’s music and performances over the many allegations against him. The boycott was accompanied by a social media campaign named ‘Mute R. Kelly.’ In response, his management said that Kelly supports the movement in principle, but targeting him was “the attempted lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”

Before his sentencing, a handful of women took the stand to confront Kelly. Victims who addressed the court said they had barely any will to live during their time under Kelly’s control. “You degraded me, humiliated me, and broke my spirit,” said a woman who went by Jane Doe No. 2. “I wished I would die because of how you degraded me.” 

In 2018, Kelly released the 19-minute long song “I Admit” on SoundCloud as a response to his accusers. The song does not contain any criminal admissions despite its title and chorus, which the lyric “I admit it, I did it.”

In “I Admit,” Kelly denies allegations of domestic violence and pedophilia, asserting they are matters of opinion. The song was criticized by reviewers, who described it as an act of ‘trolling.’

In January 2019, a documentary series titled Surviving R. Kelly aired, detailing sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against Kelly. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Loraine Ali observed that the series covered a range of in-depth interviews that “paint a picture of a predator whose behaviour was consistently overlooked by the industry, his peers, and the public while his spiritual hit was sung in churches and schools.” 

Jurors at his six-week trial in Brooklyn heard how he trafficked women between different U.S. states, assisted by managers, security guards, and other entourage members. 

Federal prosecutors had recommended that Kelly be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison, given the seriousness of his crimes and “the need to protect the public from further crimes.” But his legal team called for a sentence of 10 years – the mandatory minimum for his conviction – or less.

They portrayed Kelly as growing up poor in a household full of domestic violence and suffering sexual abuse from a young age. They said he was “devastated” by the sentence and planned to appeal. Public opinion, as well as his victims, believe that the singer had escaped justice for so long because of his power and influence as a celebrity. 

Kelly has been in custody since federal prosecutors indicted him in New York and Chicago in July 2019. The singer faces further legal action in August 2022, when he goes on trial again in Chicago for child pornography and obstruction charges. He is also due to face sex abuse charges in courts in Illinois and Minnesota. 

At his sentencing on June 29th, 2022, Judge Donnelly sentenced Kelly to 30 years imprisonment, admonishing Kelly’s criminality as “calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years.” In addition to prison time, Judge Donnelly levied a $100,000 fine plus a statutory $40,000 human trafficking penalty against Kelly.

Since his conviction, many debates have occurred on social media regarding boycotting the singer. Does his body of work get overshadowed by his criminal conviction, and is the length of his sentence long enough for his crimes, considering his victims “will never be the same.”

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