Popular R&B singer, R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for using his superstardom to subject young fans — some who were just children — to systematic sexual abuse.
The singer and songwriter, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking last year at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had once wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly’s exploitation reverberated across their lives.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” said one unnamed survivor, directly addressing Kelly, who kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast. “Do you remember that?”
Kelly, 55, didn’t speak at his sentencing, where he also was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. He was convicted last year of racketeering and sex trafficking at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had previously wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.
“Although sex was certainly a weapon that you used, this is not a case about sex. It’s a case about violence, cruelty and control,” the judge told Kelly.
The sentence caps a slow-motion fall for Kelly, who was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.
Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t come until the MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly.
Kelly manipulated millions of fans into believing he was someone other than the man the jury saw, another accuser said.
Victims “have sought to be heard and acknowledged,” she said. “We are no longer the preyed-on individuals we once were.”
A third woman who sobbed as she spoke, said Kelly’s conviction restored her faith in the legal system.
“I once lost hope,” she said, addressing the court and prosecutors, “but you restored my faith.”
The woman said Kelly victimized her after she went to a concert when she was 17. She said she didn’t speak up at the time because she was “afraid, naive and didn’t know how to handle the situation.”
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.”