Former R&B singer R. Kelly, who has long escaped criminal penalties despite decades of sexual misconduct allegations, will be sentenced Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court after his conviction last year for leading a large-scale plan to target women. recruit, as well as underage girls and boys, for sex.
Kelly, 55, could spend the rest of his life in prison, and federal prosecutors have asked for a sentence of “more than 25 years.”
The multiplatinum singer was found guilty of all nine charges against him in September, after a six-week trial shed light on how Mr. Kelly used ‘enablers’ and sycophants to ensnare fans and aspiring artists and control their lives. He was charged with racketeering and violating an anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act.
The sentencing of R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, begins at 10:30 a.m. Several victims, including some who testified last year, are expected to describe in court the impact the singer’s abuse has had on them.
And Mr Kelly himself may be making his first public statements after refusing to take the position at trial. He has been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since the verdict.
His attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, has argued that the government does not know the appropriate sentence and has asked for a sentence of less than 14 years.
Regardless of who Judge Ann M. Donnelly agrees with, the decision marks a final stage in Mr. Kelly, a collapse that lasted for decades.
He was first charged with having sex with underage girls in the 1990s, and his illegal marriage to singer Aaliyah in 1994, who was 15 at the time, raised questions about his behavior. A few years later, in 2002, Kelly was charged with child pornography, but was acquitted in a 2008 trial in Chicago.
It wasn’t until the #MeToo movement re-examined his behavior that a new wave of indictments came — and a conviction eventually lingered in New York.
At trial last fall, nine women and two men vividly described Mr. kelly. Several testified that they were minors when he first had sex with them.
Federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing letter that Mr. Kelly has shown no remorse and for decades has “displayed an unfeeling disregard” for the effects of his abuse on victims. His actions appeared to have been “fueled by narcissism and the belief that his musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his behavior” to the law, they wrote in their argument for his sentence.
“He committed these crimes with his fame and stardom as a shield, which prevented a close investigation or condemnation of his actions,” the prosecutors wrote. “And a sword, which gave him access to wealth and a network of enablers to facilitate his crimes, and an adoring fan base to kill his victims.”
Ms. Bonjean, R. Kelly’s attorney, filed many of her sealed sentencing arguments in court.
But she has told reporters she believes evidence about his traumatic childhood is important and that he should receive the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years on the racketeering charge. Mr Kelly said in a 2016 interview with GQ that he was sexually abused by a relative while growing up. (The government’s response was also filed under seal.)
During the trial, Mr. Kelly’s lawyers attempted to portray his accusers as obsessive fans and opportunists seeking financial gain. But the jury ultimately believed the prosecution.
“The defendant’s victims are not groupies or gold diggers. They’re people,” Nadia Shihata, an assistant US attorney, said at the end of the trial. “Daughters, sisters, some are mothers now. And their lives count.”