R. Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison After Being Found Guilty in Racketeering and Sex Trafficking Trial

The former R&B singer was found guilty of all counts in September 2021.

R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in his racketeering and sex trafficking case. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly handed down the sentence, nine months after the 55-year-old was found guilty on one count of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act by a federal jury in Brooklyn. 

He was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine.

"These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years," Judge Donnelly told Kelly as she handed down the sentence. "You taught them that love is enslavement and violence."

Born Robert Sylvester Kelly, the singer was also accused of knowingly infecting some accusers with a sexually transmitted disease, bribery, kidnapping, forced labor and producing child pornography.

During Wednesday's court proceedings, several victims took the stand saying Kelly preyed on and abused them and misled his fans, including a woman identified as "Angela," who testified during Kelly's trial.

Angela called Kelly a "pied piper" who lured children with his money and celebrity. "With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness," she said. "You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification."

"[Today] we reclaim our names," she continued. "We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were. I pray that God reaches your soul."

The second woman to read a witness statement, who also testified during Kelly’s trial, introduced herself as Addie and revealed that she asked to not use her name in court for fear of retaliation. She recalled the concert she attended in September 1994, where she met Kelly and says he sexually assaulted her. 

Addie admitted that she remained silent for decades, something she now regrets. "The last four years have been a rude awakening of how my silence has hurt others," she said. 

Lizette Martinez, who was featured in the documentary Surviving R. Kelly, was the third accuser to give a witness statement accompanied by her attorney, Gloria Allred.

"January 1995 eventually changed me forever," Martinez said, referring to the day she met Kelly in a mall when she was 17. She recalled Kelly promising to mentor her budding musical career, only to begin abusing her about two months after they met. She described the abuse she said she faced, saying, "I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through. I am now 45, a mother and I struggle with mental health."

"Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives,” she concluded.

A woman identified as Jane Doe No. 2 and Kitti Jones were the fourth and fifth accusers to give a witness statement. 

Jane Doe No. 2 described in detail how Kelly would return sweaty from basketball games with his friends before making her perform oral sex on him. Jones said that Kelly did things to her that she "plans to take to my grave."

A victim, identified in court as Stephanie, said Kelly had decades of remorseless freedom, and said she hopes he goes to jail for the rest of his life. "You made me do things that broke my spirit…I literally wished I would die because of how you made me feel."

The disgraced singer, who made no eye contact with the victims as they delivered their remarks, looked straight ahead or down with his hands placed on the defense table.

Elizabeth Williams/AP/Shutterstock

Legal expert Jesse Weber tells ET that the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly was pivotal in the prosecution of the case.

"This is the sentence I was expecting for R. Kelly and I think a lot of people were expecting," he says. "When you get convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering, you expect a large prison sentence and this is exactly what we saw here."

"A stiff prison sentence sends the message to the world, one, that no one is above the law, two, the gravity of these offences can not be taken lightly and I think number three, which is probably the most important, the words of these victims, the words of these survivors really played a factor in this sentencing decision," he continues. "I think this is effectively a life sentence for R. Kelly, he's going to spend the rest of his time on Earth behind bars."

In a memo filed on June 8, federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of NY shared their recommendation for Kelly's sentencing, explaining that they believe there's more than enough reason to send him away for "in excess of 25 years."

The prosecutors stated they believed Kelly felt that "his musical talent absolved him of any need to conform his conduct -- no matter how predatory, harmful, humiliating or abusive to others -- to the strictures of the law." They cited Kelly's alleged recordings of child pornography, abuse of women, and continued acts of violence even after he'd been arrested and gone on trial in 2008 as reasoning for their recommendation that the judge put him behind bars until he's well into his 70s, at least.

"Put simply, [Kelly's] crimes were calculated, methodical, and part [of] a long-standing pattern of using his platform as a larger-than-life musical persona and his deep network to gain access to teenagers, many of whom were particularly vulnerable, and then to exploit them for his personal gain and sexual gratification," prosecutors wrote.

"He continued his crimes and avoided punishment for them for almost 30 years and must now be held to account," they added.

In recently unsealed documents filed on June 13, Kelly's lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, responded to the prosecutor's recommendations by requesting the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

"The government argues for a sentence that exceeds 25 years' imprisonment. A 25-year-sentence is tantamount to a life sentence for Defendant who is 55 years old," the memo reads. "Because a 10-year sentence would serve the legitimate purpose of sentencing, Defendant urges this Court to impose a sentence not to exceed 10 years' imprisonment."

The letter argued that the offenses Kelly has been convicted of are "unrelated, sporadic, and dispersed over the course of two decades." 

"While it is undebatable that the jury found Defendant guilty of serious crimes, the government’s portrait of Defendant as a monster, preying on young teenagers is neither accurate nor fair," it reads. 

The letter goes into detail about the sexual abuse Kelly experienced as a child from relatives and friends, citing the singer's alleged traumatic experiences as evidence that he "is not an evil monster but a complex (unquestionably flawed) human being who faced overwhelming challenges in childhood that shaped his adult life."

Bonjean argued that the prosecution team was "invigorated by an influential social movement determined to punish centuries of male misbehavior through symbolic prosecutions," which stretched the boundaries of federal law that were "not designed to punish sexual misconduct like that alleged" against Kelly.

Ahead of the sentencing, a Chicago man who attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged for making threats against the three U.S. attorneys who prosecuted Kelly.

Christopher Gunn, who also goes by the name DeBoSki, was arrested on Saturday in Chicago on a charge of making threats involving severe bodily injury or death, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn. 

Gunn is accused of posting a video on YouTube one week after Kelly was convicted, showing the location of the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn. "That's where they at. That's where they work at…We're going to storm they office. We're gonna storm they office," Gunn said in the video, according to the charges against him. "[I]f you ain't got the stomach for the s**t we bout to do, I'm asking that you just bail out."

Kelly was found guilty of one count of racketeering and eight violations of the Mann Act in September 2021. The charges date back decades and involve six complaining witnesses, including the late singer Aaliyah, who died in a 2001 plane crash at 22. Since being indicted by a grand jury in February 2019, the singer has maintained his innocence in all charges, with his defense depicting his accusers as groupies lying about their relationship with him.  

Kelly didn't testify during his trial and received a guilty verdict after five weeks of testimony from more than 40 witnesses. 

In total, the defense called five witnesses, including a former Chicago police officer who pleaded guilty to felony forgery charges; John Holder, an accountant who worked for Kelly a year before the singer's arrest; a former musical collaborator, Dhanai Ramnaran, who testified he was never on Kelly's payroll but worked with him for 15 years; and Jeff Meeks, a former assistant for Kelly who testified that he once saw a woman attempting to leave Kelly's studio.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, called 45 witnesses to the stand, with 11 of them being Kelly's alleged accusers and eight former employees. Prosecutors described Kelly as a "predator," and accused him of leading "a criminal enterprise" of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped the singer recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography and to cross state lines for that purpose.

Kelly has been jailed without bail since 2019. Outside of New York, Kelly faces multiple charges in Illinois and Minnesota, including aggravated sexual abuse, child pornography, enticement of a minor, obstruction of justice, prostitution and solicitation of a minor. His Chicago trial is scheduled to begin in August.