R. Kelly: US singer faces decades in jail at sex trafficking sentencing
Singer R. Kelly could face decades in prison when he is sentenced later on Wednesday, nine months after being found guilty of running a scheme to sexually abuse women and children.
In September, a New York jury convicted the disgraced R&B star of racketeering and eight counts of sex trafficking.
The 55-year-old artist will spend at least 10 years in prison, with the maximum possible sentence being life.
Prosecutors have said he should spend at least 25 years behind bars.
At his hearing on Wednesday, survivors confronted Kelly over his decades-long abuses.
A woman identified only as Angela called the singer a Pied Piper who “grew in wickedness” with every new victim, while others testified he had degraded them and broken their spirits.
The singer – known for the hit songs I Believe I Can Fly and Ignition (Remix) – was found to have been the ringleader of a violent and coercive scheme to lure women and children for him to sexually abuse.
Jurors at his six-week trial in Brooklyn heard how he trafficked women between different US states, assisted by managers, security guards and other entourage members, over two decades.
The court also heard how Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry singer Aaliyah when she was 15 in 1994, seven years before the singer died in a plane crash.
The certificate, leaked at the time, listed Aaliyah’s age as 18. The marriage was annulled months later.
Prosecutors said R. Kelly – whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – showed a “callous disregard” for his victims and no remorse.
“Indeed, the defendant’s decades of crime appear to have been fuelled by narcissism and a belief that his musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his conduct – no matter how predatory, harmful, humiliating or abusive to others – to the strictures of the law,” they said.
But his legal team argued that he is “not currently a risk to the public” and deserves no more than the minimum sentence of a decade.
In newly unsealed court documents, they portrayed Kelly as a “musical genius” who grew up poor in a household rife with domestic violence, suffered sexual abuse from a young age and therefore became “hypersexual”.
Attorney Jennifer Bonjean added that her client was not a “one-dimensional sex predator monster” or a paedophile.
Kelly was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York and Chicago in July 2019.
His time behind bars has been rocky, suffering a beating from a fellow inmate in 2020 and falling ill with Covid-19 earlier this year.
The singer’s legal woes continue in August, when he goes on federal trial again, this time in Chicago on child sex images and obstruction charges. He is also due to face sex abuse charges in Illinois and Minnesota state courts.