Sonia Moghe and Dakin Andone, CNN, June 30, 2022
Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday following his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from his efforts over years to use his fame to ensnare victims he sexually abused.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly, 55, to more than 25 years behind bars, while his defense attorneys asked for 10 or fewer, saying prosecutors’ request was “tantamount to a life sentence.”
Survivors of Kelly’s abuse held hands and prayed as US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly began reading his sentence. Kelly — who wore a tan prison uniform, dark-rimmed glasses and a black mask at the hearing in federal court in Brooklyn — showed no emotion.
“You left in your wake a trail of broken lives,” Donnelly told Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.
In deciding the sentence, Donnelly said she considered Kelly’s own traumatic childhood, during which his attorneys said he was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member and a landlord.
“It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior,” the judge said. “It most surely is not an excuse.”
A jury convicted Kelly last September on nine counts, including one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
The five-week federal trial in Brooklyn included testimony from witnesses who said they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The court also heard from people involved with orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was an adult after she believed she’d gotten pregnant.
Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said he would not address the court, pointing to the other criminal case faced by Kelly, but said before the sentence was read that her client “rejects that he is this monster.”
“He accepts that he is a flawed individual,” Bonjean said, “but he is not this one-dimensional monster that the government has portrayed and the media has portrayed.”
Among the letters that asked for a shorter sentence for Kelly was one written by Diana Copeland, Kelly’s former assistant who testified as a government witness and said she wrote a letter in support of Kelly because it was the “right thing to do.”
“God doesn’t want us to throw humans away,” Copeland wrote. “If we have the audacity to care for the perpetrators as well as the victims, we can all rise.”
Joycelyn Savage, who was considered a victim of Kelly’s by prosecutors, also remains a supporter.
“Robert and I are deeply in love and it breaks my heart that the government has created a narrative that I’m a victim,” Savage wrote. “I’m a grown woman, and can speak for myself which is why I wanted to provide this letter to the court.”
In her letter, Savage revealed she is now engaged to Kelly.
Ahead of the sentencing, a Chicago man who had attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged for making threats against the three US attorneys who prosecuted Kelly, a copy of his arrest warrant shows.
Christopher Gunn was arrested Saturday for allegedly posting threats to kill or seriously injure the female prosecutors.
According to the arrest warrant, Gunn posted video to his YouTube channel in October, shortly after Kelly was found guilty, that showed an image of the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York where the women work. Prosecutors believe a voice narrating the video is Gunn’s, and he says, “That’s where they at. That’s where they work at … We’re going to storm the office,” saying each of the three prosecutors’ names.