CHICAGO — Singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and violating a sex trafficking law.
Kelly, a Chicago native who gained international fame as an R&B singer, was sentenced Wednesday in a court in New York. It was the culmination of years of girls and young women — many of them Black and their stories repeatedly ignored by officials and journalists — reporting he’d sexually abused them.
Kelly was convicted in September and his sentencing hearing was held Wednesday. His victims told the court he’d raped them, held them against their will and traumatized them. They said they still struggle with their mental health.
“You destroyed so many people’s lives,” one woman said during her victim impact statement, according to The New York Times.
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, asked the judge for leniency, saying Kelly was raised in a “highly chaotic home” and had been sexually abused, according to the Times.
Kelly rose to fame in the ’90s as an R&B star, known for “I Believe I Can Fly” and other hits.
But Kelly faced sexual abuse allegations for years. In 2002, he was charged with child pornography in an infamous case involving a videotape that allegedly showed a man assaulting and peeing on an underage girl. Kelly was found not guilty in that case in 2008.
Kelly continued to face questions about his conduct with young women; a 2017 story from journalist Jim DeRogatis in Buzzfeed reported parents of young women were concerned Kelly was holding their daughters against their will in a “cult.” Kelly denied those claims.
A 2019 documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” then documented sexual abuse allegations made against Kelly, further renewing interest in the claims. After its premiere, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx asked alleged victims to come forward and Sony Music dropped Kelly.
Kelly was charged with sexual abuse in Cook County in 2019. A few months later, federal prosecutors charged Kelly was child sexual exploitation, making child pornography, sex trafficking, racketeering and other crimes.
Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and violating the Mann Act in September after a weeks-long trial.
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