By Nehru Odeh
Legendary R&B singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking and racketeering.
The singer was jailed on Tuesday for using his superstar status to take advantage of young fans, mostly children and subject them to sexual abuse.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly handed down the sentence after seven of the disgraced singer’s victims gave impact statements recalling their abuse at his hands.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” one of the victims told him,” one of his victims said.
Though convicted in 2021, prosecutorsi nitially sought a 25-year sentence for the 55-year-old singer. Kelly’s defence argued that he should be subjected to no more than 10 years in prison, arguing that anything longer was “tantamount to a death sentence” for him.
Kelly was convicted on nine charges, which included racketeering and violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the interstate transportation of women and girls for “any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offence”.
The judge said during the sentencing that “the public has to be protected from behaviours like this”.
“These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years,” she said. “You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.”
She went on to say that she would have handed down the sentence regardless of the sentencing guidelines.
One of the victims said he used his celebrity to “groom” underage girls and boys.
“With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,” the victim, named Angela, said. “You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.”
“Today we reclaim our names,” she said. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were. I pray that God reaches your soul.”
Kelly’s defence team attempted to argue that he should receive a lighter sentence because of his upbringing. They argued that Kelly was subjected to sexual abuse as a child and grew up in a “chaotic home”.
“Mr Kelly rejects that he’s this monster,” Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said.
Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, spoke with reporters after the ruling.
“R Kelly is a predator,” he said. “He continued committing his crimes for almost 30 years and avoided punishment – until today. These are the voices of mostly Black and brown women and children who were heard and believed. Justice was finally achieved. This is a victory for them, for justice, and victims of sexual assault. Victims must be heard, perpetrators must be held accountable, and women and children must be protected.”
He said he hopes the sentencing shows that “it doesn’t matter how rich [and] famous” an abuser is to be brought to justice.
Kelly first faced accusations that he was having sex with minors in the 1990s. He married the singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was only 15-years-old, allegedly in order to ensure she could not be compelled to testify against him in court.
In 2002, he was charged for allegedly posessing child sexual abuse images, but was ultimately acquitted in 2008.
A new wave of charges against Kelly began after the #MeToo movement began picking up steam and successfully sending powerful abusers to prison.