R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking, racketeering

Federal prosecutors were seeking a sentence in "excess of 25 years."

June 29, 2022, 8:43 PM

A federal judge sentenced singer and convicted sexual predator R. Kelly to 30 years in prison Wednesday.

Kelly was convicted last September of racketeering and violating the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law, including having sex with underage girls. He could have faced up to life in prison.

Kelly declined to make a statement during the hearing on Wednesday. Outside the courthouse, Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for Kelly, said his lawyers advised him not to make a statement because he still has pending cases. She said he will make a statement eventually.

Bonjean said Kelly will be appealing the case, adding he was not guilty of racketeering. Responding to questions, Bonjean said Kelly is not an abuser.

"Mr. Kelly is fine," a lawyer for Kelly told reporters outside the courthouse after the sentencing. "We believe that this enterprise was overcharged."

PHOTO: R. Kelly stands with his lawyers Jennifer Bonjean and Ashley Cohen during his sentencing hearing for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, June 29, 2022.
R. Kelly stands with his lawyers Jennifer Bonjean and Ashley Cohen during his sentencing hearing for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, June 29, 2022.
Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, who prosecuted the case, called Kelly a predator and said the outcome is significant. Peace said justice was "finally achieved," speaking outside the courthouse.

"He continued committing his crimes for almost 30 years, until today," Peace said.

Peace and Steve Francis, acting executive associate director of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, attributed the outcome to the bravery of victims who came forward.

"This man is a prolific, serial predator," Francis said. "Today's sentence is a victory that belongs to the brave victims that came forward."

He later added, "Money, power and fame will not buy you immunity in the United States."

PHOTO: R. Kelly appears at a hearing in Chicago, June 26, 2019.
R. Kelly appears at a hearing in Chicago, June 26, 2019.
Pool/Getty Images, FILE

Lizzette Martinez, one of Kelly’s accusers, was a 17-year-old singer when she met Kelly and reacted to his sentencing.

“Honestly, I cried. I just never thought that anyone was really going to care for us in our stories. It took so long. Like 30 years he's been doing it. And I just-- I just felt lighter, actually. I felt a lot lighter,” Martinez told “ABC News Live.”

“I was able to tell him exactly what he did to me and to tell the judge and to be heard and listened... it's the right sentencing for him," she added.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented victims in the case, called Kelly a skilled sexual predator.

"They are relieved that he has been sent to prison for approximately 30 years, because while he is in prison he will not be able to sexually victimize anyone," Allred said.

His defense team asked for less than 14 years in prison, citing Kelly's traumatic childhood.

During his trial, nearly four dozen witnesses testified for the prosecution, alleging that he preyed upon children and women for his sexual gratification.

He was also convicted in a bribery scheme involving a public official to get a fake ID for the late singer Aaliyah, so the two could marry when she was 15 and he was 27. Kelly believed Aaliyah was pregnant at the time, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

PHOTO: In this illustration drawn from a video feed, assistant district attorney Nadia Shihata presents her rebuttal statement to the jury during R. Kelly's sex trafficking trial in federal court in New York, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
In this illustration drawn from a video feed, assistant district attorney Nadia Shihata presents her rebuttal statement to the jury during R. Kelly's sex trafficking trial in federal court in New York, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. R. Kelly is seen in the upper left hand corner inset and is seated lower right. The panel of photos on the left show R. Kelly's employees and inner circle. The upper right inset are examples of texts between R Kelly and one if his victims.
Elizabeth Williams/AP, FILE

Kelly produced Aaliyah's debut album, titled "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number." She died in a plane crash in 2001 at 22 years old.

"Kelly relied upon his fame, money and popularity as an R&B recording star and used the large network of people his status afforded him -- including his business managers, security guards and bouncers, runners, lawyers, accountants and assistants to both carry out and conceal his crimes," prosecutors said. "He continued his crimes and avoided punishment for them for almost 30 years and must now be held to account."

In 2016, he revealed in a GQ interview that a female family member sexually abused him.

The defense also cast his accusers as motivated by money.

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