Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday following his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from his efforts over years to use his fame to ensnare victims he sexually abused.
The judge was urged by the prosecution to sentence 55-year-old Kelly to more than 25 years in prison, but Kelly's defense attorneys argued for 10 years or less, claiming that the prosecution's request was "tantamount to a life sentence."
As US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly began pronouncing Kelly's punishment, the victims who had been abused by him gathered in a circle and prayed. At the hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, Kelly, who was dressed in a tan prison uniform, dark-rimmed glasses, and a black mask, exhibited no emotion.
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was reprimanded by Donnelly for leaving a path of ruined lives in her wake.
Kelly's counsel said that during his horrific youth, which Donnelly claimed she took into account while determining the sentence, he was subjected to recurrent sexual abuse by a family member and a landlord.
The judge remarked, "It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior." It most definitely is not an explanation.
Former Kelly backup singer Jovante Cunningham welcomed the sentence.
After the hearing, Cunningham remarked, "I started this trip 30 years ago. I stand here very proud of my legal system, very proud of my fellow survivors, and very satisfied with the conclusion. There wasn't a day in my life up until this point that I truly felt that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown females.
In September of last year, a jury found Kelly guilty on nine charges, including one for racketeering and eight for Mann Act crimes. Kelly was charged with using his famous status and "network of people at his disposal to target kids, boys, and young women for his personal sexual enjoyment," according to prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York.
Witnesses testified during the five-week federal trial in Brooklyn that Kelly had assaulted them physically and sexually. The notorious R&B musician married the late singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was only 15 years old and he was an adult after she thought she had gotten pregnant, according to witnesses testifying in court.
"Nobody can undo the damage"
The court heard impact statements from seven of Kelly's victims, including Jane Doe 2, who gave evidence throughout the trial, before the sentence was handed down.
She addressed Kelly, saying, "It's been 23 years since we knew one other, and you've abused a lot more girls since then." "Now it's your chance to have your freedom ripped from you," she continued.
Gloria Allred, an attorney who represented three victims who testified, told reporters outside court on Wednesday that "no one can reverse the devastation that has been done to these victims." But at least Mr. Kelly must now answer for his actions.
Childhood trauma revealed
In more than 14 hours of interviews with psychiatry specialists, Kelly revealed that his mother was his childhood best friend.
His earliest recollections are seeing his mother perform as a vocalist in the band "Six Pack." He used to go with her to McDonald's with her to have a pastry and a coffee.
According to a letter written by Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Kelly had never met his father and considered the loss of his mother to be the most tragic experience of his life. He also said he frequently visited McDonald's to smell the coffee and think of his mother.
Prosecutors faced threats
A copy of his arrest order reveals that a Chicago man who had attended Kelly's trial in Brooklyn was detained and accused of threatening the three US attorneys who had brought the case against Kelly.
For reportedly posting threats to kill or gravely hurt the female prosecutors, Christopher Gunn was detained on Saturday.
Additionally, prosecutors looked into a CashApp account that is connected to Gunn and found several transactions from February 26 to June 1 that they claim prove Gunn "involved in the sale of handgun ammunition in relation to the Kelly incident."