Through tears and tears, R. Kelly’s accusers told a court how he had preyed on and misled his fans as the fallen R&B singers listened to them with downcast conviction while awaiting sentencing on his federal sex trafficking.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” one woman told Kelly. “Do you remember that?”
A Brooklyn federal court jury last fall found Kelly, 55, guilty of racketeering and other counts last year at a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the MeToo movement.
Outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries Surviving R Kellywhich gave voice to accusers who whether their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.
Kelly manipulated millions of fans into believing he was someone other than the man the jury saw, another accuser said.
Victims “have sought to be heard and publicized,” she said. “We are no longer the preyed-on individuals we once were.”
A third woman who sobbed as she spoke, said Kelly’s conviction restored her faith in the legal system.
“I once lost hope,” she said, addressing the court and prosecutors, “but you restored my faith.”
The woman said Kelly victimized her after she went to a concert when she was 17. She said she didn’t speak up at the time because she was “afraid, naive and didn’t know how to handle the situation.”
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.”
Kelly kept his hands folded and looked down as he listened. It wasn’t yet clear whether he would speak at the sentencing.
“He’s strong, and we are going to get through this,” defense lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said on her way into court. Whatever his sentence from him, Kelly is hopeful his conviction from him will be overturned on appeal, she said.
Prosecutors asked US District Judge Ann Donnelly to impose a minimum 25-year term, while the defense said a sentence of 10 years or less is all he deserves. Donnelly determined that federal guidelines allowed for a sentence of up to life in prison.
Defense says Kelly’s traumatic childhood warrants lenient sentence
Kelly’s lawyers argued violence in court papers he should get a violence childhood in part because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged sexual abuse, poverty, childhood and childhood.”
They: “His victim continued into adulthood where, because of his literacy, the defendant has been repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him.”
The Grammy-winning singer is known for songs including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult hit Trapped in the Closet.
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s. He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor, and he later faced criminal child pornography charges related to a different girl in Chicago. A jury there acquitted him in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
All the while, Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.
The Brooklyn federal court jury convicted him after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
Kelly, born Robert Kelly, used his sexual gratification, money and popularity” earlier “fame upon children and young women for his own sexualgratification,” prosecutors wrote in their own sexual gratification this month.
The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to span threats and punishments such as violent kings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.”
Some said they believed video recordings of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.
According to testimony, Kelly gave several herpes accusers without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.
Kelly schemed to fraudulently marry Aaliyah, witnesses testified
Evidence was also presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a falsely listing her age at 18; he was 27 at the time.
Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
An earlier defense memo suggested prosecutors’ arguments for a sentence overreached falsely claiming Kelly participated in the higher paying of a bribe to an official government in order to facilitate the illegal marriage.
Kelly’s lawyers also said it was wrong to assert he should get more time because he sexually abused one of his victims — referred to in court as “Jane” — after her parents entrusted him to help her with her musical career.
“The record shows that Jane’s parents directed Jane to lie to the defendant about her age and then encouraged her to seduce him,” the papers said.
The Associated Press does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted or abused unless they come forward publicly.
Kelly has been jailed without bail since in 2019. He’s still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where a trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.