The former R&B singer R. Kelly, who had long escaped criminal penalties despite decades of sexual misconduct allegations, will face sentencing on Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court after his conviction last year for commanding a vast scheme to recruit women, as well as underage girls and boys, for sex.
Mr. Kelly, 55, could spend the rest of his life in prison, and federal prosecutors have asked for a sentence “in excess of 25 years.”
The multiplatinum singer was found guilty of all nine counts against him in September, after a six-week trial shed light on how Mr. Kelly used enablers and sycophants to ensnare fans and aspiring artists and control their lives. He was charged with racketeering and violating an anti sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act.
The sentencing of R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, will begin at 10:30 a.m. Several victims, including some who testified last year, are expected to describe in court how the singer’s abuse affected them.
And Mr. Kelly himself may make public statements for the first time, after declining to take the stand at his trial. He has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since the verdict.
His lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, has argued that the government’s understanding of the appropriate sentencing range is flawed and has asked for a sentence of under 14 years.
Regardless of whom Judge Ann M. Donnelly agrees with, the decision will mark a final stage in Mr. Kelly’s stunning downfall, a collapse that took decades.
He was first accused of having sex with underage girls in the 1990s, and his illegal marriage to the singer Aaliyah in 1994, who was 15 at the time, prompted questions about his behavior. A few years later, in 2002, Mr. Kelly was indicted on child pornography charges, but was acquitted in 2008 at a trial in Chicago.
It was not until the #MeToo movement renewed scrutiny of his conduct that a new wave of charges arrived — and a conviction finally stuck in New York.
At the trial last fall, nine women and two men vividly described Mr. Kelly’s sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Several testified that they were minors when he first had sex with them.
Federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing letter that Mr. Kelly has shown no remorse and for decades, “exhibited a callous disregard” for the effects of his abuse on victims. His actions seemed to have been “fueled by narcissism and a belief that his musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his conduct” to the law, they wrote in their argument for his sentence.
“He committed these crimes using his fame and stardom as both a shield, which prevented close scrutiny or condemnation of his actions,” prosecutors wrote. “And a sword, which gave him access to wealth and a network of enablers to facilitate his crimes, and an adoring fan base from which to cull his victims.”
Ms. Bonjean, R. Kelly’s lawyer, filed much of her sentencing arguments to the judge under seal.
But she has told reporters she believes evidence about his traumatic childhood is important, and that he should receive the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the racketeering charge. Mr. Kelly said in a 2016 interview with GQ that he was sexually abused by a relative while growing up. (The government’s response was also filed under seal.)
At trial, Mr. Kelly’s lawyers sought to frame his accusers as obsessive fans and opportunists who sought financial gain. But the jury ultimately believed the prosecution.
“The defendant’s victims aren’t groupies or gold diggers. They’re human beings,” Nadia Shihata, an assistant U.S. attorney, said at the end of the trial. “Daughters, sisters, some are now mothers. And their lives matter.”
(The New York Times)