R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking
After being convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking last fall, singer R. Kelly has been handed his criminal sentence. The R&B artist behind hit songs such as "I Believe I Can Fly" and "Ignition (Remix)" was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday.
The singer faced a minimum sentence of 10 years, and maximum of life in prison. In their sentencing memo, prosecutors requested at least 25 years due to "the seriousness of the offenses, the need for specific deterrence and the need to protect the public from further crimes." In the end, the 55-year-old got more than that recommendation, with a 30-year prison sentence.
The sentencing hearing began with statements from several survivors.
"You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel," said one unnamed survivor, directly to Kelly. "Do you remember that?"
Kelly did not respond to these statements or address the court.
Kelly first went to trial in 2008 for child pornography charges related to the infamous video that allegedly showed him urinating on an underage girl; after the girl in question refused to testify, Kelly (who pleaded guilty and denied the charges) was acquitted. But his abusive behavior to women and underage girls continued over the subsequent years, as chronicled in Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis' book Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly and Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly documentary series. Those brought Kelly's crimes back to the public sphere, especially after the #MeToo movement began in 2017.
Kelly was eventually arrested by Chicago authorities in February 2019 on charges of aggravated sexual abuse, to which he pleaded not guilty. In July of that year, he was indicted by federal authorities on charges of racketeering and conspiracy — meaning that in addition to sexual assault, he also broke the law by creating a structure of enablers and henchmen to find girls for him to abuse, transport them across state lines, and more.
The federal court case began in Brooklyn last August, and included harrowing testimony about the various ways Kelly abused his many victims — including the late singer Aaliyah, whom witnesses said Kelly sexually abused when she was as young as 14 and then coerced her into an illegal marriage with the help of fraudulent documents. The jury found him guilty on all counts.
The Grammy-winning singer is due to go on trial in August for the Chicago charges.