R&B singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing women, girls and boys, and racketeering charges.
Last September, a jury in New York City found Kelly guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering, on all nine counts against him.
On Wednesday, Survivors of Kelly’s abuse held hands and prayed as US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly began reading his sentence.
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.”
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, 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.”
“He accepts that he is a flawed individual,” Bonjean said, “but he is not this one-dimensional monster that the government has portrayed and the media has portrayed.”
Kelly made his only comment in response to the judge after Bonjean said he wouldn’t speak: “Yes, your honor, that’s my wish.”
US district judge Ann Donnelly read her sentence, and she 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 behavior,” Donnelly told Kelly. “It most surely is not an excuse.”
Judge Ann Donnelly then sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison, and he was also slapped with a $100,000 fine after prosecutors asked for $50,000 to $250,000.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors argued Wednesday in court over whether Kelly even could pay a fine. The defense said he is “pretty close to indigent” and could not. Prosecutors disagreed, saying money from the sale of some of his music rights and millions of dollars in royalties held by Sony could cover any fine.
“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.
“Thirty years (is how long) that he did this and 30 years is what he got”, Jovante Cunningham, a former backup singer for Kelly, praised the sentence.
Bonjean said she advised Kelly not to speak at the sentencing because of pending litigation against him, but added, “he has regrets. And he is sad. Nobody wants to hear what he heard today.”
Among the letters that asked for a shorter sentence for Kelly was one written by Diana Copeland, Kelly’s former assistant who testified as a government witness and said she wrote a letter in support of Kelly because it was the “right thing to do.”
Lisa and Cassandra, R Kelly’s two sisters from his father’s side attended the sentencing on Wednesday and have said that they believe that the singer has been treated unfairly.
“He’s been strong. He’s gonna continue to be strong. We’re his sisters, we’re gonna continue to stand behind him,” Lisa Kelly told Insider. And that’s just the way it is. We don’t believe any of that.”
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.