R&B superstar R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on sex trafficking and rackerteering charges stemming from his last year’s court conviction. Prosecutors say Kelly, 56, used his fame to lure women into sexually abusive acts. Victims of Kelly’s abuse were reportedly present and held hands as US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly read his sentence, according to CNN.
After over two decades of accusations which included minors, the star was convicted on over eight counts of the Mann Act. The 1910 act that initially aimed at prostitution, also invokes the use of foreign commerce or interstate to transport women.
People in Kelly’s camp who were interviewed by psychiatric experts claim that the Grammy award singer was sexually assaulted by his older sister and landlord at the age of six and seven, sometimes on a weekly basis.
Judge Ann Donnelly did admit to taking into consideration Kelly being sexually assaulted himself as a child, but firmly stated that it still is not an excuse for such heinous acts.
“It may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior,” the judge said. “It most surely is not an excuse.”
Prior to the five-week federal trial, the court heard statements from several victims of the accused.
A woman listed as Jane Doe 2 addressed Kelly while in court on the abuse she experienced from him.
“It’s been 23 years since we knew each other, and you’ve victimized a lot of girls since then,” she said, “Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you.”
Kelly will eventually be transported to Chicago in August where he will be facing another trial on child pornography and obstruction.
The sentencing has left many of Kelly’s supporters, or just music lovers in general, torn on how to feel towards the singer and his highly praised music catalog. To step in the name of love or to step away completely from his artistry seems to be a hot topic on social media nowadays.
One person who is not torn on her feelings towards Kelly is Jovante Cunningham, a former background singer for Kelly.
“I started this journey 30 years ago,” Cunningham said outside the court after the hearing. “There wasn’t a day in my life up until this moment that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls. I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome,” Cunningham said about the sentence.
Jennifer Bonjean, R. Kelly’s lawyer, spoke to the press outside of the courthouse.
“He’s not a predator. He was prepared for it,” she said of Kelly’s reaction to the sentencing. “He has regrets and he is sad,” she added. “He disagrees with the characterizations that have been made about him,” Bonjean said.
Not long after long after being led to his cell to begin his bid, Kelly’s lawyer filed a lawsuit alleging that the singer was placed on suicide watch as form of punishment. On July 5th Kelly was finally removed from suicide watch at a Brooklyn federal prison.