NEW YORK — R. Kelly’s federal case in Brooklyn, New York, came to a close Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly sentenced the R&B singer to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine after being convicted of racketeering and charges related to sex trafficking.
Before Donnelly announced the sentencing, victim witnesses Angela, Addie, Lizzette Martinez, Stephanie, Kitti Jones, Faith Rodgers and Sonja stood before the court’s podium to state their remarks. Several broke into tears during their speeches.
Angela, who witnessed Kelly sexual assault R&B singer Aaliyah and was also sexually assaulted herself in the early ’90s, read her statement directly to Kelly.
“We are no longer the preyed upon individuals that we once were,” she told him. “I am a representation of every woman, boy, child, man that you have ever afflicted with your deplorable, despicable acts. And with that I leave you with yourself, Robert Sylvester Kelly.”
Stephanie, during her searing speech, said she experienced a “suffocating fear” when she was being abused and whenever she saw or heard the singer in the media.
“You are an abuser. You are shameless. You are disgusting. You are self-serving,” she told Kelly in front of the court. “I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life... Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you and it still won’t be an ounce of the freedom you took away from your victims.”
Kelly declined to address the court due to his other upcoming criminal cases.
“These are not the crimes of an impulsive person,” Donnelly told Kelly. “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and carried out for over 25 years.”
She continued: “Like all young people, your victims had dreams and goals. Many of them dreamt to be a singer… You took advantage of those hopes and dreams.”
In a press conference following the sentencing, defense attorney Jennifer Bodgy said they will appeal, noting that “for us, it’s just the beginning of the fight.”
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told journalists at the presser, “Today the sentence shows that the witnesses claimed control over their lives and over their futures. These are voices of mostly Black and Brown women and children that were heard and believed and for whom justice was finally achieved. This is a victory for them, for justice and for future survivors of sexual assault.”
Gloria Alred, standing with Martinez and Jovante, whom she represents, said her clients are relieved at the sentence.
“Together [my clients] were able to fight his power by becoming empowered young women themselves who refuse to be intimidated by him and his enablers,” Alred said. I’m proud of all of them and their many sacrifices made in order to bring R. Kelly, finally, to the bar of justice. They have succeeded in making R. Kelly suffer the consequences of his criminal acts... He will not be able to continue to sexually victimize any underage girls, and protecting other girls has been a major goal of theirs.”
Kelly was convicted in September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking minors across state lines for criminal sexual activity. The six-week trial included testimony from survivors, former employees and others. It centered on six women, sometimes identified as Jane Does, sometimes as Stephanie, Sonja, Jerhonda, Jane, Faith and Aaliyah. Five took the stand. Aaliyah Haughton, the deceased singer whom Kelly married when she was just 15, figured prominently in the trial when it was revealed that Kelly married her so he could legally sign off on her getting an abortion.
Three of the six victims were minors when Kelly began his abuse. Several other survivors also took the stand to testify about their relationships with Kelly, including two John Does. Their testimony included details about Kelly requiring his girlfriends to follow his rules — calling him “daddy,” asking permission to use the bathroom and not being allowed to talk to other men, to name a few. He filmed many of his sexual acts with them, including with minors. He had sex with them without telling them he had herpes. When he felt his victims weren’t following his rules, he’d often spank them.
During the trial, Stephanie testified that the singer “could put the fear of God in me very quickly.”
Since the early ’90s, Kelly has continued this cycle of abuse, using his music and influence as a tool to get close to young fans and take advantage of his victims and employees. He was first indicted in 2002 on child pornography charges. After years of delaying the trial, he was acquitted in 2008. Kelly went unchecked for years until people on social media began calling out how he had never been held accountable for the many allegations against him.
Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Tisha Barnes founded #MuteRKelly in 2017 to raise awareness for Kelly’s survivors and to get his music removed from radio stations and streaming services. The viral campaign made way for the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which detailed his history of abusing young girls and women, mostly Black. A month after the docuseries premiered in 2019, Kelly was arrested and charged in Chicago on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse and later charged with 11 additional sex abuse-related charges. He was released from jail on bond.
In July 2019, the same day his federal indictment in the Brooklyn trial was handed down, he was arrested and federally indicted on 13 counts in Chicago, including child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice.
His Chicago trial will begin Aug. 1.