The popular R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in prison. on Wednesday in a federal court in New York City for exploiting his stardom and wealth over decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex. A jury had found R. Kelly guilty last year of racketeering and other counts in a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement. Outrage over his misconduct with children and young women was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.” The accusers have been vocal over the verdict of his sentence.
R. Kelly Accusers speak out at the sentencing
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly determined that federal guidelines allowed for a sentence of up to life in prison. Kelly’s lawyers sought 10 years or less. Through tears and anger, R. Kelly’s accusers told a court Wednesday he had preyed on them and misled his fans, while the fallen R&B star awaited sentencing on his federal sex trafficking conviction.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” one woman told the Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer. She said she was forever traumatized by her teenage experience with him.
“Do you remember that?” she asked. Victims “have sought to be heard and acknowledged,” she said. “We are no longer the preyed-on individuals we once were.”
A third woman, sobbing and sniffling as she spoke, said R. Kelly’s conviction renewed her confidence 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. “I was afraid, naive and didn’t know to handle the situation,” she said, so she didn’t speak up at the time.
“Silence,” she said, “is a very lonely place.” Kelly kept his hands folded and eyes downcast as he listened. It wasn’t yet clear whether he would speak at the sentencing.
“He’s strong, and we are going to get through this,” defense lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said on her way into court. Whatever his sentence, Kelly is hopeful his conviction will be overturned on appeal, she said. The hitmaker is known for work including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.