R. Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

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Videos by American Songwriter

Today (June 28), disgraced singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in a Brooklyn, New York courtroom.

Said one unnamed survivor, addressing Kelly, “You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel. Do you remember that?”

Kelly, the R&B powerhouse behind hits like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind,” fell from grace last year as he was found guilty of multiple counts of racketeering and sex trafficking by a New York jury. The trial was seen as a pivotal moment in the #MeToo movement, counting Kelly, along with his entourage, as a criminal enterprise. 

According to a court memo filed ahead of his sentencing, obtained by Rolling Stone, federal prosecutors recommended Kelly serve over 25 years for his “decades” of sexual abuse and exploitation. 

“He continued his crimes and avoided punishment for them for almost 30 years and must now be held to account,” the filing reads. “His musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his conduct—no matter how predatory, harmful, humiliating or abusive to others—to the strictures of the law.”

Altogether Kelly, 55, faced up to life in prison for his conviction. 

Along with his trafficking and racketeering charges, Kelly also bribed a state employee to falsify documents in order to marry singer Aaliyah who was 15 years old at the time—he was 27. In the New York trial, jurors heard testimony about the fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he impregnated the R&B phenom in 1994. 

“Aaliyah was only 12 at the time [Kelly’s] sexual abuse of her began and 15 when he secretly and fraudulently married her in an effort to protect himself from the consequences of that abuse,” prosecutors wrote. The filing also states Kelly routinely “preyed upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification.”

Kelly’s lawyers argued that he deserves only a maximum of about 17 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. 

Kelly’s Chicago trial involved a separate federal indictment alleging charges, including sex crimes, child pornography, enticement of a minor, and obstruction of justice. Sentencing in Kelly’s New York case is slated for June 29 in Brooklyn. 

Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

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