Singer R Kelly was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in prison, following the multiplatinum R&B singer's conviction for exploiting his stardom and wealth over decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex.
The sentence was imposed nine months after Kelly, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex crimes, in a trial that amplified accusations that had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit "I Believe I Can Fly" for two decades.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn federal court said the evidence reflected Kelly’s “indifference to human suffering” and “sheer brutality” toward his victims.
“This case is not about sex. It's about violence and cruelty and control. You left in your wake a trail of broken lives,” Donnelly told Kelly.
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is among the most prominent people convicted of sexual misbehavior during the #MeToo movement against such conduct by prominent men. He did not speak during Wednesday's hearing, but has repeatedly denied sexual abuse accusations.
After the sentence was read, his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, told reporters Kelly was "devastated" by the sentence but that he would appeal. “Thirty years in prison is like a life sentence for him," Bonjean said.
The sentencing came after several accusers, some of whom were tearful, told the judge about how Kelly promised to mentor them and help them attain stardom, only to subject them to degrading sexual treatment and physical harm. Many said the abuse led to mental health problems that persist.
He was convicted on nine criminal charges, including one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
Defense lawyers said Kelly deserved no more than 10 years, the mandatory minimum, arguing that his history as an abused child may have led to his adult "hypersexuality," and that he no longer posed a threat.
Kelly has been in jail since July 2019. He will likely be transported soon to a jail in Chicago, where he faces an August trial in federal court on child pornography and obstruction charges. He also faces various state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.