R Kelly jailed for 30 years over sex trafficking underage girls

29 June 2022, 20:11 | Updated: 29 June 2022, 20:50

Singer R Kelly has been jailed for 30 years for creating a scheme to entice and sexually exploit young aspiring singers and underage children.
Singer R Kelly has been jailed for 30 years for creating a scheme to entice and sexually exploit young aspiring singers and underage children. . Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

Singer R. Kelly has been jailed for 30 years for creating a scheme to entice and sexually exploit young aspiring singers and underage children.

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The disgraced R&B singer, 55, was convicted in September for racketeering and sex trafficking after decades of avoiding criminal responsibility for numerous allegations of misconduct with young women and children.

Prosecutors had asked that he was imprisoned for at least 25 years.

Kelly was dressed in a khaki shirt and black glasses as he listened to her sentencing hearing on Wednesday and replied "good morning" after being greeted by presiding Judge Ann Donnelly.

Donnelly overnight denied a last ditch motion for an acquittal and a retrial by Kelly's lawyer, who argued his client's defense team were ineffective and that prosecutors had "misused" the racketeering charge.

The prosecution team arrives for the sentencing hearing of R. Kelly at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York
The prosecution team arrives for the sentencing hearing of R. Kelly at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York. Picture: Getty

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A jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty of racketeering in September.

The charges were based on an argument that the entourage of managers and aides who helped the singer meet girls - and keep them obedient and quiet - amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Several accusers testified in lurid detail during the trial, alleging that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.

For years, the public and news media seemed to be more amused than horrified by allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, starting with Kelly's illegal marriage to the R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15.

His records and concert tickets kept selling. Other artists continued to record his songs, even after he was arrested in 2002 and accused of making a recording of himself sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

Widespread public condemnation did not come until a widely watched docuseries - Surviving R Kelly - helped make his case a signifier of the #MeToo era, and gave voice to alleged victims who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were black women.

People gather in front of Brooklyn Federal Court for the sentencing hearing of US singer R. Kelly in New York
People gather in front of Brooklyn Federal Court for the sentencing hearing of US singer R. Kelly in New York. Picture: Getty

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At the trial, several of Kelly's accusers testified without using their real names to protect their privacy and prevent possible harassment by the singer's fans.

Jurors were shown homemade videos of Kelly engaging in sex acts that prosecutors said were not consensual.Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez argued that Kelly was a serial abuser who "maintained control over these victims using every trick in the predator handbook".

The defence labelled the accusers "groupies" and "stalkers".

Defence attorney Deveraux Cannick questioned why the alleged victims stayed in relationships with Kelly if they thought they were being exploited.

"You made a choice," Mr Cannick told one woman who testified, adding, "You participated of your own will."

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been jailed without bail since in 2019.

The trial was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and Kelly's last-minute shake-up of his legal team.

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