R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in prison for federal racketeering and sex trafficking

Survivors of Kelly’s abuse held hands and prayed as U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly began to read his verdict. Kelly — who wore a tan prison uniform, dark-rimmed glasses and a black mask during the hearing in federal court in Brooklyn — showed no emotion.

“You left a trail of broken lives,” Donnelly told Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.

In determining the sentence, Donnelly said she took into account Kelly’s own traumatic childhood, in which his lawyers said he had been repeatedly sexually abused by a family member and a landlord.

“It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior,” the judge said. “It’s certainly no excuse.”

Jovante Cunningham, a former backing singer for Kelly, praised the punishment.

“I started this journey 30 years ago,” Cunningham said after the out-of-court hearing. “There hasn’t been a day in my life up to this point when I truly believed that the justice system would come for black and brown girls. I stand here very proud of my justice system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very happy with it.” result.”

R. Kelly convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking by a federal jury in New York
Last September, a jury convicted Kelly on nine counts, including one racketeering charge and eight violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. New York’s Eastern District prosecutors accused Kelly of using his celebrity status and a “network of people at his disposal to attack girls, boys and young women for his own sexual satisfaction.”
The five-week federal trial in Brooklyn included testimonies from witnesses who said they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The court also heard from people involved in orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old and he came of age after she believed she had become pregnant.

Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said he would not address the court, pointing to the other criminal case Kelly was dealing with, but said before the verdict was read that her client “denies that he is this monster.”

“He accepts that he is a flawed individual,” Bonjean said, “but he is not this one-dimensional monster that the government has portrayed and the media has portrayed.”

Kelly made his only comment in response to the judge after Bonjean said he would not speak: “Yes, Your Honor, that is my wish.”

Bonjean said she advised Kelly not to speak during the sentencing due to the pending lawsuits against him, but added: “He’s sorry. And he’s sad. No one wants to hear what he heard today.”

Kelly and the judge seen in an outline of the sentencing.

‘No one can undo the damage’

Prior to the sentencing, the court heard impact statements from seven of Kelly’s victims, including Jane Doe 2, who testified at the trial.

“It’s been 23 years since we knew each other, and since then you’ve victimized a lot of girls,” she told Kelly. She later added, “Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken away.”

“No one can undo the damage done to these victims,” ​​attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three victims who testified, told reporters outside the court on Wednesday. “But at least it’s time for Mr. Kelly to answer.”

Defense attorneys and prosecutors argued in court on Wednesday about whether Kelly could even pay a fine. The defense said he is “pretty close to needy” and couldn’t. The plaintiffs disagreed, saying money from the sale of some of his music rights and millions of dollars in royalties held by Sony could cover any fine.

In the nine months since his sentencing, Kelly has replaced his entire legal team with Bonjean and her office. Bonjean is the attorney who helped Bill Cosby overturn his sexual assault conviction and also represented Cosby in a civil suit he lost in trial this month.

“We were prepared for it,” Bonjean said of the out-of-court verdict. “We are now prepared to challenge this appeal.”

Kelly is being held in a federal detention facility in Brooklyn and is expected to be returned to Chicago, where he will face another federal trial in August for child pornography and obstruction.

Childhood Trauma Revealed

In more than 14 hours of interviews with psychiatrist experts, Kelly said his closest relationship was growing up with his mother. His earliest memories were watching his mother perform as a singer in a band called ‘Six Pack’, and he often accompanied her to McDonald’s where she had coffee and they shared a pastry.

Kelly had never met his father and described his mother’s death as the most tragic event in his life. According to a letter from Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

“To me, the ‘M’ stands for mom. Going to McDonald’s is always being with my mom,” Kelly said.

But his childhood was also marked by trauma.

A look at the women who brought R. Kelly to justice

Kelly saw a childhood sweetheart drown when he was a little boy. And people interviewed by psychiatrist experts say Kelly was repeatedly sexually abused, starting when he was a 6- or 7-year-old boy, his lawyer wrote, saying he was abused by his older sister and also by a landlord, at times. on a “weekly basis”. †

Sorrentino said in her letter that Kelly’s childhood sexual abuse may have contributed to his “hypersexuality,” or difficulty controlling sexual urges, and believes it was a factor in his criminal convictions.

While Kelly was convicted of sexually exploiting a child, Sorrentino refused to diagnose Kelly with pedophilia because he told her his “sexual behavior never pertains to prepubescent individuals,” she said.

Faith, another woman who testified at Kelly’s trial, refuted the defense’s argument in her victim statement Wednesday, saying that her own father had also been sexually abused as a child but “never harassed me.”

Support for the singer

Among the letters asking for a shorter sentence for Kelly was one written by Diana Copeland, Kelly’s former aide who testified as a government witness and said she wrote a letter in support of Kelly because it was “the right thing to do.” ‘.

“God doesn’t want us to throw people away,” Copeland wrote. “If we have the guts to care for both the perpetrators and the victims, we can all stand up.”

Joycelyn Savage, who was considered a victim of Kelly’s by prosecutors, also remains a supporter.

“Robert and I are deeply in love and it breaks my heart that the government has created a story that I am a victim,” Savage wrote. “I am a grown woman and can speak for myself, which is why I wanted to deliver this letter to the court.”

In her letter, Savage revealed that she is now engaged to Kelly.

Prosecutors Face Threats

Prior to the conviction, a Chicago man who attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged with making threats against the three US attorneys who had prosecuted Kelly, a copy of his arrest warrant shows.

Christopher Gunn was arrested Saturday for posting threats to kill or seriously injure the female prosecutors.

According to the arrest warrant, Gunn posted a video to his YouTube channel in October, shortly after Kelly was found guilty, that showed an image of the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, where the women work. Prosecutors believe a voice narrating the video belongs to Gunn, and he says, “That’s where they are. That’s where they work… We’re going to storm the office,” naming the three prosecutors.

“If you don’t have the guts for the sh*t we’re about to do, I’m asking you to just come out,” he is said to have said in the video.

Prosecutors also analyzed a CashApp account linked to Gunn showing multiple transactions from Feb. 26, 2021 to June 1, indicating that Gunn was “engaged in the sale of firearms ammunition in connection with the Kelly case,” they said. Transactions include payments for $20 with descriptions that read “30 rounds..free R Kelly.” CNN has contacted Kelly’s attorney for comment.

Prosecutors believe Gunn was planning to attend Kelly’s sentencing on Wednesday after he posted another video in which he said he had a “place” for supporters to meet near the courthouse.

CNN has contacted an attorney for Gunn, who is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday.

CNN’s Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.

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