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R. Kelly Gets 30 Years Without Parole For Sex Trafficking

R. Kelly
R. Kelly Photo Credit: CHICAGO PD

R&B singer R. Kelly is a "disgusting" child abuser who taught his victims that love was "enslavement and violence," said a federal judge in Brooklyn who sentenced him to 30 years in prison Wednesday for running a decades-long sex trafficking ring that included child victims.

The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer raped and otherwise sexually abused victims "with regularity" for nearly 25 years, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly said.

“This case is not about sex. It’s about violence and cruelty and control,” the judge told Kelly, who reportedly is now destitute after selling more than 75 million albums and winning three Grammies.

“These victims were disposable to you. You taught them that love is enslavement and violence and humiliation,” she added.

Robert Sylvester Kelly, 55, who's remained in custody since he was formally charged in 2019, must serve just about all of the sentence because there's no parole in the federal prison system.

Jurors convicted him last September of nine racketeering counts for a pattern of abuse that targeted young male and female fans, some of them minors, for abuse, exploitation and humiliation. The verdicts followed a six-week trial that featured 45 prosecution and five defense witnesses.

Some of the witnesses told jurors that they'd been recruited and groomed for sex, with Kelly and his associates arranging trips for them to concerts and other events across the country.

Others testified about Kelly's relationship with the singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when she married Kelly in August 1994. He was 45 at the time while the marriage license, application and certification listed her age as 18 at the time, the government said.

Former Demetrius Smith told jurors that he bribed a worker at a Chicago-area welfare office with $500 in cash to create a bogus ID for Aaliyah, who died in 2001.

A victim who wasn't identified by her full name testified that she told Kelly that she was 17 after he invited her to his studio, but he "said it was fine," sexually abused her and even recorded them having sex.Some spoke of being beaten with shoes, cords and fists, as well as receiving spankings when they broke his rules.

A former radio intern told jurors that a Kelly associate put her in a room "locked from the outside" after she traveled to Chicago to interview him, then kept here there for several days, allowing occasional bathroom and shower breaks.

She told jurors she blacked out after her first meal in days and woke up to find Kelly adjusting his pants.

"I was sexually assaulted," the woman testified. "There was something in me that wasn't wanted."

She wasn't the only victim confined and forced to follow rules, federal prosecutors said. Among the audio they played during the trial was a clip in which a man they identified as Kelly is heard ordering a crying woman to keep her eyes closed.

"I'm a dumb white bitch, daddy," the woman is heard saying, apparently after being slapped. "I want you to fix me."

One of his abusers, who met Kelly when she was just 16, called him "an abuser," "shameless," "disgusting" and "self-serving" during Wednesday's sentencing hearing in Brooklyn.

Jurors last year deliberated for nine hours before finding Kelly guilty of nine counts -- one of racketeering and eight of violating the Mann Act, a federal law that prohibits transporting people across state lines "for any immoral purpose." Kelly's lawyers attacked his accusers as "groupies" who leveraged the #MeToo movement to take down a famed and beloved performer.

Defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean also said that he isn't "an evil monster” but, rather, “a complex (unquestionably flawed) human-being” who suffered trauma as a youngster that affected his behavior.

They got that wrong, said attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six victims who testified.

Kelly was the one who "used the power of his celebrity to recruit vulnerable underage girls for the purpose of sexually abusing them," she said.

"These were not May-October relationships, which is what his defense attorney wanted the jury to believe," Allred said. "These were crimes against children and some adults."

Following Wednesday's sentencing, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said that Kelly "used his fame, fortune and enablers to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification, while many turned a blind eye,” 

Kelly's legal ordeal isn't over, however. He faces similar charges in Chicago, where a federal indictment accuses Kelly of videotaping himself having sex with at least four girls younger than 18. It also accuses him and associates of paying "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to several people to recover the videos after discovering them missing.

The trial there is scheduled to begin in August.

A conviction could guarantee that Kelly never tastes freedom again.

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