R. Kelly Will Likely Spend the Rest of His Life in Prison

“Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives," Lizette Martinez said before Kelly received a 30-year sentence.

R. Kelly Will Likely Spend the Rest of His Life in Prison
Photo:Antonio Perez (Getty Images)

For years, scores of activists and journalists sounded the alarm on singer R. Kelly who, in September, was convicted on nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering in a federal trial in Brooklyn.

On Wednesday, Judge Ann M. Donnelly sentenced the former R&B singer to 30 years in federal prison—and he faces yet another trial in Chicago.

“The public has to be protected from behaviors like this,” Donnelly told the court as she delivered the sentence. “These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years. … You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.”

Prior to the ruling, Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, implored Donnelly to remember that Kelly was the son of a single mother and was raised in a home in which he too, was severely sexually abused. She also stated that Kelly has a history of being generous and is “widely accepted as a musical genius.”

“Mr. Kelly rejects that he’s this monster,” Bonjean said.

Stories of Kelly’s systematic abuse of young women and underage girls have been heavily chronicled in the media for the last decade—most notably, in the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly. The show featured numerous women and industry insiders speaking about how Kelly, during his years touring the world as a prominent R&B artist, recruited recruitment of women and girls as young as 13 for sex, including the singer Aaliyah, whom he married when she was 15.

Former Chicago Sun Times music critic Jim DeRogatis’ reporting on the allegations against Kelly, beginning in 2000, was influential in Kelly’s eventual arrest and sentencing, as was the #MuteRKelly campaign, led by Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye.

During the hearing on Wednesday, which lasted over two hours, 11 of Kelly’s victims read impact statements that detailed the irreparable harm he inflicted upon them. Lizette Martinez, who was featured in Surviving R. Kelly, told the court: “I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through.”

Addressing him by his first name, she added: “Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives.”

Kelly’s second federal trial is slated to begin on August 1 in Chicago. He was charged in a 13-count indictment in 2019 that alleged Kelly sexually abused six separate minors—some of which he recorded on video.

Outside of the Brooklyn courthouse, Bonjean told reporters that her client “has regrets,” and was saddened by the verdict. “He’s not a predator,” she said. Meanwhile, Gloria Allred, the victims’ attorney, said she was proud of the women: “Together they were able to fight his power.”

Gerald A. Griggs, a lawyer for the parents of Jocelyn Savage, a former girlfriend of Kelly whose parents claim she’s still being “controlled” by the singer, has since written on Instagram that they were pleased with the ruling.

“They hope that it [the verdict] will continue to send a strong message that sexual predators will be punished for their illegal conduct.”

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