Disgraced rapper R. Kelly was sentenced on Thursday to just one more year in prison for federal pedophilia charges.
US District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced the Kelly, 56, to 20 years in prison for luring multiple underage girls into sex by leveraging his wealth and fame, and in some case recording the abuse on video.
Nineteen of those years will be served concurrently with his ongoing 30-year sentence for his 2021 conviction on racketeering and sex trafficking charges in New York federal court, with just one year served consecutively in a Chicago federal prison.
The sentence is far less than what prosecutors and his victims had sought, arguing in court that the once-popular Grammy winner spend the rest of his life behind bars by sentencing him to 25 years, which would only begin when the existing 30 year stretch is complete.
In court documents, prosecutors had asked Leinenweber to sentence the I Believe I Can Fly singer to an additional 25 years behind bars, arguing that he is so incorrigible that ‘the only way to ensure Kelly does not reoffend is to impose a sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life.’
But defense attorneys said he is already facing an effective life sentence with the existing 30-year term, pointing out that Kelly has diabetes. They argued that the government was seeking to convict him on charges for which he was acquitted.
Then in court on Thursday, the judge determined that Kelly’s actions did not merit a sex trafficking sentencing enhancement, disagreeing with prosecutors that Kelly used fear to woo underage girls — even as they shared their pain with the judge.
He added that deterrence is not a factor because Kelly has already lost all of his wealth and status due to his convictions.
Kelly was found guilty of sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter, ‘Jane,’ and other girls on video in September.
He was convicted of three of four counts, accusing him of producing child pornography by filming himself having sex with his underage goddaughter, who testified against him.
Jurors were forced to watch parts of three of those videos in court.
Kelly was also convicted of three out of five charges accusing him of enticing minors to engage in sexual activity.
But the jury acquitted him of seven other charges, including obstruction of justice and conspiracy to receive child pornography, accusing him and two associated of rigging his 2008 child pornography trial.
His two associates, Derrell McDavid and Milton Brown, were also acquitted on related charges.
Federal prosecutors have since recommended a 25-year sentence to be served consecutively to the New York sentence. That would mean that Kelly would not be eligible for release from prison until 2066, when he would be 99 years old.
In their sentencing recommendation, prosecutors described Kelly’s behavior as ‘sadistic,’ calling him a ‘serial sexual predator’ with no remorse and who ‘poses a serious danger to society.
‘The only way to ensure Kelly does not reoffend is to impose a sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life,’ the filing says.
The prosecutors acknowledged that they were seeking more time behind bars then sentencing guidelines recommend.
But they argued: ‘A consecutive sentence is eminently reasonable given the egregiousness of Kelly’s conduct.
‘Kelly’s sexual abuse of minors was intentional and prolific.’
Defense lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, however, wrote that even with his 30-year sentence, ‘Kelly would have to defy all statistical odds to make it out of prison alive,’ citing data that the average life expectancy of inmates is 64.
She instead recommended a sentence of around 10 year, at the low end of sentencing guidelines, which she said could be served simultaneously with the New York sentence.
Bonjean argued in court documents that Kelly, who is black, was singled out for behavior that she said white rock stars have gotten away with for decades.
‘None have been prosecuted, and none will die in prison,’ she argued.
In court on Thursday, the victims each read statements arguing that Kelly should be sentenced to a long term in prison.
‘Jane’ told Judge Leinenweber: ‘When I think of all that I have lost due to Robert Kelly all I can do is cry.
‘I will never get back what Robert Kelly took from me,’ she said, adding: ‘When you lose your virginity to a pedophile at the age of 14, your life is never your own.
‘I need closure, I need Robert Kelly in jail for as long as the law will allow,’ she said, lamenting that she will always be known as the girl R. Kelly peed on and that her involvement with him left her unable to have a normal romantic relationship.
Another victim, ‘Pauline,’ shared how she felt like she was living a double life because her family never knew the abuse she was suffering.
Now, as an adult, she said she does not trust anyone with her children ‘because I know first-hand that can go.’
Following their remarks, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng said: ‘For the rest of their lives they will have to live with… victimhood.’
She claimed Kelly showed no sign of remorse for his actions and has taken extreme actions to avoid prosecution — though he was never found guilty of tampering with the 2008 trial.
‘You heard Jane testify how she lied for him in the grand jury back in 2002,’ Appenteng told the judge, noting that her parents lied when they didn’t see her on Kelly’s sex tape.
‘They were scared to go against Kelly’s power, money and influence,’ Appenteng said. ‘Now is the time for justice.’
But Bonjean dismissed the government’s accusations that Kelly engaged in victim blaming, saying: ‘The idea that [Kelly] has failed to take responsibility … the government knows that’s not true.’
She also argued that Jane’s family wanted nothing to do with his 2002 indictment, telling the judge: ‘The government puts a lot of emphasis on this obstruction count, on which Mr. Kelly was acquitted.’
In doing so, Bonjean said the government is seeking to punish Kelly for conduct for which he was acquitted, which could result in a constitutional violation.
And Bonjean said Kelly’s effective illiteracy should be taken into account, saying it prevented him from seeking help for his trauma.
‘These are adverse conditions that continue through life,’ she said,
She instead asked the judge to sentence Kelly to 14 years to be served concurrently with his 30-year sentence.
‘If there’s one person that no one wants to be on this planet it’s R. Kelly,’ she said, arguing there is no need for a stricter sentence to deter others from committing similar crimes.