R. Kelly Sentenced To 20 Years For Child Sex Crimes
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced R. Kelly to 20 years in prison for child sex crimes, after a jury found that he had produced three videos of himself sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter.
In a victory for the defense, the judge ruled that all but one year of the prison sentence would be served at the same time as a previous 30-year sentence that Mr. Kelly received after a jury in Brooklyn convicted him of racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
The jury in Chicago convicted Mr. Kelly of six of the 13 charges brought against him in connection with sexual abuse during the 1990s, including counts of coercing three minors into sexual activity and three of producing sex tapes involving a minor. He was acquitted of a charge that he had attempted to obstruct an earlier investigation into his abuse of the goddaughter, and two other counts of enticing minors to have sex.
Federal prosecutors had argued that Mr. Kelly, 56, deserved 25 years in prison on top of his earlier sentence, citing the singer’s “lack of remorse” as a reason he would pose a danger to society if released.
“The only way to ensure he will not reoffend is to impose a sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life,” Jeannice Williams Appenteng, one of the prosecutors, said in court on Thursday.
A lawyer for Mr. Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, argued that her client was “likely to die in prison either way,” but that if he did not, he would not pose a threat in old age.
Judge Harry D. Leinenweber agreed, saying in court that he did not think Mr. Kelly would be likely to commit the same kind of crimes in his 80s. The judge acknowledged that he would have dealt a heftier sentence if the Chicago trial had come first.
As in the trial, Mr. Kelly remained mostly silent during the sentencing hearing, declining to speak on his own behalf. Taking into account a possible early release because of good behavior, Mr. Kelly could walk out of prison in his late 70s.
The ruling caps a lengthy legal battle in Chicago, where Mr. Kelly was once widely viewed with pride as a product of the city’s South Side. In 2008, he was acquitted on charges of producing child sexual abuse imagery of his goddaughter, with some jurors telling reporters that they had been influenced by the lack of testimony from the young woman. She had denied to a grand jury that she was the person in an infamous tape that prosecutors said showed Mr. Kelly sexually abusing and urinating on her.
But in last year’s federal trial, which followed a resurgence of scrutiny over Mr. Kelly’s treatment of girls and young women in response to the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” the woman took the stand, identifying herself as the underage girl being abused in three videos, snippets of which were shown to the jury.
In Thursday’s hearing, a lawyer for the woman — identified in court as Jane — read a statement about how the repeated sexual abuse affected her life, asking that Mr. Kelly be put in jail for “as long as the law allows.”
“I’ll never be able to unsee the child pornography,” she said in the statement, which was read by her lawyer, Christopher Brown. “No amount of therapy will make me normal.”
Ms. Bonjean, who said she was appealing the convictions in both Brooklyn and Chicago, had lobbied for the minimum 10-year prison sentence, arguing that Mr. Kelly had suffered his own history of sexual abuse as a child and that he had intellectual disabilities that “shed some light on why he engaged in inappropriate relationships.”
The additional sentence reduces the chance that Mr. Kelly would get out of prison even if his defense team wins its appeal of the Brooklyn conviction. He still faces sex crimes charges in Minnesota, which have been on hold during the federal trials. State prosecutors in Illinois recently dropped sexual abuse charges against him, citing the previous convictions.
Judge Leinenweber also ordered Mr. Kelly to pay one of the sexual abuse victims $42,000 in restitution for therapy bills, denying it to the goddaughter and the third woman whose account led to a conviction. The woman who was ordered to receive the money — referred to in court as Pauline — had testified that Mr. Kelly sexually abused her repeatedly when she was a teenager, sometimes at the same time as the goddaughter.
The third woman, referred to as Nia during the trial, addressed Mr. Kelly directly in the courtroom on Thursday, recounting how she met him as a “star-struck teenager” asking for an autograph in a mall but ended up “completely damaged” after the sexual abuse.
“I’m not a vengeful or hateful person,” the woman said in court, “but I highly suggest you spend your time in prison reflecting.”