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R.Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Following his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from his attempts over a period of years to use his fame to ensnare victims he sexually abused.
Kelly’s defense attorneys requested a sentence of 10 years or less, arguing that the prosecution’s request was “tantamount to a life sentence.” The prosecution had urged the judge to sentence Kelly, 55, to more than 25 years in prison.
Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, following his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from his efforts over years to use his fame to ensnare victims he sexually abused.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly, 55, to more than 25 years behind bars, while his defense attorneys asked for 10 or fewer, saying prosecutors’ request was “tantamount to a life sentence.”
Kelly’s defense lawyers have claimed that the singer should receive a 10-year maximum sentence because any longer would be “more than necessary,” and jailing the 55-year-old for more than that would be “tantamount to a life sentence.”
At the hearing on Wednesday, which also included witnesses from the case, Kelly—real name Robert Sylvester Kelly—wore a black mask, dark-rimmed glasses, and a tan prison uniform. Seven of Kelly’s victims are anticipated to speak in court, and then US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly will sentence Kelly—possibly including a fine—after hearing their impact statements.
Kelly was found guilty by a jury in September of last year on nine counts, including one for racketeering and eight for contravening the Mann Act, which prohibits sex trafficking. According to prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York, Kelly targeted kids, boys, and young women for his personal sexual enjoyment by leveraging his famous status and “network of persons at his disposal.”
Witnesses who testified that R.Kelly had assaulted them physically and sexually were heard during the five-week federal trial in Brooklyn. The court also heard testimony from others involved in arranging the disgraced R&B artist’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was only 15, and he was an adult after she thought she had gotten pregnant.
On Wednesday, Kelly’s ability to pay a fine was the topic of a legal dispute between the prosecution and the defense. According to the defense, he was unable to because he was “very near to indigent.” However, the prosecution argued that any fine might be paid off by the proceeds from selling part of his music rights and the millions of dollars in royalties retained by Sony.
Kelly has hired Jennifer Bonjean to represent him in place of all of his former counsel in the nine months following his conviction. Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was overturned with Bonjean’s assistance, and he also used Bonjean to defend him in a civil action this month that he lost in court.
Elie Honig, a CNN legal expert and a former federal prosecutor who has handled cases involving the racketeering and Mann Act crimes at issue in Kelly’s case, said the sentencing judge would have considerable authority to impose a sentence she deems is appropriate.
Once R.Kelly received his sentence, he will likely be transferred back to Chicago, where he will stand trial in August on charges of obstruction and child pornography. Kelly is now being held at a federal prison center in Brooklyn.