R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years on racketeering, sex trafficking charges

A judge on Wednesday sentenced singer R. Kelly to 30 years in prison after a jury convicted him last year of heading a racketeering and sex trafficking scheme that preyed on young women and girls for decades.

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Update 4:05 p.m. EDT June 29: Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented several of Kelly’s victims, said her clients were “relieved that (Kelly) has been sent to prison for approximately 30 years, because while he is in custody, he will not be able to continue to sexually victimize any other underage girls, and protecting other girls has been a major goal of theirs.”

“He was a skilled sexual predator who preyed on his victims and, after grooming them, he inflicted significant emotional and sometimes physical harm, which in some cases will continue to hurt them for the rest of their lives,” Allred said.

Lizzette Martinez, one of Kelly’s victims who earlier spoke in court, said that she never thought she’d see the day that Kelly was held accountable “for the atrocious things that he did to children.”

“This happened to me a long time ago. I was 17, I’m 45 today,” she said. ”I was an up-and-coming singer. I was a girl full of life -- very innocent, but very driven, and preyed upon, basically, at the mall in Aventura, Florida, and promised just a mentorship, and quickly turned into, I would just say, a sex slave.”

Martinez said that she didn’t think that Kelly’s sentence was long enough, “but I’m pleased with it.”

Update 3:50 p.m. EDT June 29: Outside the courthouse, Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said that her client is “not a predator,” The New York Times reported.

“He has regrets and he is sad,” she said. “He disagrees with the characterizations that have been made about him.”

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace hailed Wednesday’s verdict as “a significant outcome for all victims of R. Kelly and especially for the survivors who so bravely testified about the horrific and sadistic abuse they endured.”

“With the aid of his fame, his money and most importantly, his inner-circle, R. Kelly preyed upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification for decades,” Peace said.

“He used coercive control exemplified by a pattern of isolation, rules, dependence, threats, intimidation tactics, physical abuse and, at least once, the presence of a gun to force victims, including minors, to engage in sexual activities with him and others and to become unwilling participants in the pornographic films he wrote, produced and directed. He continued committing his crimes for almost 30 years and avoided punishment, until today.”

Update 3:30 p.m. EDT June 29: In court, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly told Kelly that his crimes were “calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for 25 years,” according to The New York Times.

“You taught them that love is enslavement and violence,” she said, according to the newspaper.

Allegations that Kelly sexually abused young girls began to surface in the 1990s. In 1997, the singer was sued by a woman who alleged he had sexually battered and harassed her when she was a minor, The Associated Press reported. He later faced child pornography charges out of Chicago, although a jury acquitted him in 2008, according to the AP.

Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT June 29: U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly handed down Kelly’s sentence on Wednesday after several women read victim impact statements in court, according to The Associated Press and The New York Times.

“The public has to be protected from behaviors like this,” Donnelly said in court, according to the Times.

Earlier Wednesday, a woman identified as Kelly said that the singer “made me do things that broke my spirit,” the AP reported.

“I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” she said, according to the AP. “Do you remember that?”

Prosecutors are expected to speak to the public later Wednesday following Kelly’s sentencing.

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT June 29: A judge sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison, according to officials and The New York Times. Prosecutors had asked that he face more than 25 years imprisonment while defense attorneys asked for less than 14 years.

Original report: The hearing is scheduled to begin in New York at 10:30 a.m., court records show.

Earlier this month, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly to sentence Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, to at least 25 years in prison. Defense attorneys asked that he face less than 14 years or a maximum of 17 years imprisonment, court records show.

Allegations of sexual misconduct and assault involving Kelly had swirled for decades before his arrest in 2019. In September, a jury found him guilty of racketeering, with underlying acts including bribery, sexual exploitation of a child, forced labor and kidnapping. Authorities said Kelly used his fame and his inner circle to lure young girls and women into his orbit for abuse.

“Put simply, the defendant’s crimes were calculated, methodical, and part (of) a long-standing pattern of his using his platform as a larger-than-life musical persona and his deep network for his personal gain and sexual gratification,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed earlier this month in court.

At trial, defense attorneys painted Kelly’s accusers as “groupies” and “stalkers” and questioned why they stayed in relationships with the singer, perhaps best known for 1996′s “I Believe I Can Fly,” when they believed they were being abused.

Fifty witnesses testified over the course of Kelly’s trial last year, including several women who testified that Kelly had abused them while they were underage.

Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.