NEW YORK (AP) – Disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for using his reputation to sexually abuse young fans, including some. only children, in a systematic scheme spanning decades.
Through tears and anger, some of Kelly’s accusers told a New York City court, and the singer herself, that he had deceived and preyed on them.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I really wish I would die because of how low you have made me feel,” an unnamed survivor told Kelly directly, who kept her arms crossed and her eyes clouded.
“Do you remember that?” she asked.
Kelly, 55, made no statement and did not react when he heard his fine, which also includes a $100,000 fine. He has denied wrongdoing and he plans to appeal his conviction.
Last year, the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling musician was found guilty of fraud and sex trafficking at a trial that gave a voice to accusers, who had previously wondered if his story whether they are ignored because they are black women.
The victims “are no longer the prey we used to be,” another of his accusers said at the sentencing.
“Up until this point in my life, I really believed that the justice system would work for black and brown girls,” she added outside court.
A third woman, sobbing and sniffling as she spoke in court, also said Kelly’s conviction renewed her faith in the legal system.
The woman said Kelly became her victim after she went to a concert at the age of 17.
“I was scared, naive, and didn’t know how to handle the situation,” she said, so she did not speak up at the time.
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.”
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said he was “devastated” by the verdict and saddened by what he had heard.
“He is a human being. He feels what others are feeling. But that doesn’t mean he can take responsibility the way the government wants him and others want him to. Because he disagrees with the traits that have been created about him,” she said.
This quote tells a slow-motion story for Kelly, who is known for a variety of works including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a The story is mostly about betrayal and sexual conspiracies.
He was loved by countless fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations of his abuse of young girls began to circulate publicly in the 1990s.. He defeated child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, when a jury acquitted him.
The widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t surface until #MeToo reckoned, which culminated in the release of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”
“I hope this verdict serves as its own testimony that it doesn’t matter how powerful, rich or famous your abuser is or how small they make you feel – public opinion. Justice only listens to the truth,” Brooklyn Attorney Breon Peace said Wednesday.
A federal jury in Brooklyn has convicted the singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, after hearing that he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet with the singers. girls and keep them obedient, an operation that prosecutors consider a criminal enterprise.
Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to depraved and brutal acts while they were underage.
The accusers allege they were ordered to sign non-disclosure forms and subject to threats and punishments such as violent spanking if they broke what is known as “Rob’s rule”.
Some said they believed the tapes he filmed of them having sex would be used against them if they revealed what was going on.
According to testimony, Kelly gave several whistleblowers without disclosing that he had an STD, forcing a teenage boy to join him for sex with a nude girl. emerges from beneath the boxing ring in his garage, and shoots an embarrassing video showing a victim being smeared. poop on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.
“The horror your victim endured,” said U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly as she sentenced him. “No price is too high to pay for your happiness.”
Lizzette Martinez was an aspiring 17-year-old singer when she met Kelly at a Florida mall. She was promised counseling but quickly became a “sex slave,” she said Wednesday outside court.
When asked if Kelly’s 30-year sentence was punitive enough, she paused before answering.
“Personally, I don’t think that’s enough,” she said, “but I’m happy with it.”
At the trial, evidence was also presented of a fraudulent marriage plot introduced to protect Kelly after he feared he had laced R&B Aaliyah. in 1994 when she was 15 years old. He was 27 years old then.
Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” She died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.
Kelly did not testify at his trial, but his attorneys at the time described his accusers as girlfriends and groups of friends who weren’t forced to do anything against their will. their will and stay with him because they enjoy the privileges of his way of life.
His current lawyers have argued that he should not receive a prison sentence of more than 10 years because he had a traumatic childhood “related to severe, prolonged, poverty-stricken childhood sexual abuse and violence.”
As an adult with “literacy impairments,” the star was “repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by people he paid to protect,” his attorney said. he say.
The Associated Press does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted or abused, unless they’ve made it public, as Martinez said. Some of the women who spoke at Kelly’s sentencing were identified only by name or pseudonym.
Kelly has been jailed without bail since 2019. He still faces child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where the trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. August 15.
Associated Press journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed to this report.