(CNN Spanish) — R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New Yorkfollowing his conviction last year on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges stemming from his years-long efforts to use his fame to ensnare the victims he sexually abused.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly, 55, to more than 25 years behind bars, while her defense attorneys asked for 10 or fewer, saying prosecutors’ request was “equivalent to life in prison.”
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, wore a tan prison uniform, dark-rimmed glasses and a black mask at Wednesday’s hearing, which was also attended by victims in the case. The court heard impact statements from seven of Kelly’s victims, including Jane Doe 2, who testified at trial.
“It’s been 23 years since we met, and you’ve victimized a lot of girls since then,” he said, turning to Kelly. She later added: “Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken away.”
A jury convicted Kelly last September of nine counts, including one count of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York charged Kelly with using her celebrity status and a “network of people at her beck and call to target girls, boys and young women for her own sexual gratification.”
The five-week federal trial in Brooklyn included testimony from witnesses who said Kelly sexually and physically abused them. The court also heard from people involved in orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 and he was an adult after she believed she had become pregnant. .
“No one can undo the damage that has been done to these victims,” attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three victims who testified, told reporters outside court Wednesday. “But at least it’s time for Mr. Kelly to be held accountable.”
Defense attorneys and prosecutors argued in court Wednesday about whether Kelly could pay a fine. The defense said that she is “very close to being destitute” and could not. Prosecutors disagreed, saying money from the sale of some of her music rights and millions of dollars in royalties held by Sony could cover any fines.
In the nine months since her conviction, Kelly has replaced her entire legal team with Jennifer Bonjean and her firm. Bonjean is the attorney who helped Bill Cosby get his sexual assault conviction overturned and she also represented Cosby in a civil case he lost at trial this month.
“We were prepared for it,” Bonjean said of the out-of-court sentencing. “We are now prepared to appeal this appeal.”
Kelly is being held at a federal detention center in Brooklyn and, once sentenced, was expected to be transferred back to Chicago, where he faces another federal trial in August on obstruction and child pornography charges.
Reveal childhood trauma
In more than 14 hours of interviews with psychiatric experts, Kelly said her closest relationship growing up was with her mother. Her earliest memories were of seeing her mother perform as a singer in a band called “Six Pack”, and often accompanying her to McDonald’s, where she had coffee and a cake.
Kelly never knew her father and described her mother’s death as the most tragic event of her life, saying she often went to McDonald’s to smell the coffee and remember her, according to a letter submitted by Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at the School of Medicine. Harvard Medicine.
“For me, the ‘M’ stands for mom. Going to McDonald’s is always being close to my mom,” Kelly said.
But his childhood was also marked by trauma.
Kelly watched a childhood sweetheart drown when he was a little boy. And people interviewed by psychiatric experts say Kelly was repeatedly sexually abused since he was a 6- or 7-year-old boy, his lawyer wrote, saying he was abused by his older sister and also by a landlord, sometimes “weekly.”
Sorrentino said in her letter that Kelly’s childhood sexual abuse may have contributed to her “hypersexuality,” or difficulty controlling sexual urges, and believes it was a factor in her criminal convictions.
Although Kelly was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, Sorrentino refused to diagnose Kelly with pedophilia because he told her his “sexual behavior has never involved pre-teens,” he said.
Faith, another woman who testified at Kelly’s trial, rebutted the defense argument Wednesday in her victim impact statement, saying her own father had also been sexually abused as a child but “never abused me.” “.
Support to the singer
Among the letters calling for a shorter sentence for Kelly is 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 does not want us to throw humans away,” Copeland wrote. “If we have the audacity to care for both the perpetrators and the victims, we can all rise up.”
Joycelyn Savage, who was deemed a victim of Kelly 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 am a victim,” Savage wrote. “I am a grown woman and I can speak for myself, which is why I wanted to deliver this letter to the court.”
In her letter, Savage revealed that she is now engaged to Kelly.
Prosecutors received threats
Before sentencing, a Chicago man who had attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged with threatening the three federal prosecutors who prosecuted Kelly, a copy of his arrest warrant shows.
Christopher Gunn was arrested on Saturday for allegedly posting death or serious injury threats to female prosecutors.
According to the arrest warrant, Gunn posted a video on his YouTube channel in October, shortly after Kelly was convicted, 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 are. That’s where they work… We’re going to hit the office,” saying the names of each of the three prosecutors.
“If you don’t have the stomach for the shit we’re about to do, I’m asking you to stand down,” he allegedly said in the video.
Prosecutors also analyzed a CashApp account linked to Gunn that shows multiple transactions from February 26, 2021, through June 1 indicating that Gunn “engaged in the sale of firearm ammunition in connection with the Kelly matter.” they said. Transactions included $20 payouts with descriptions that read “30 rounds… R kelly free.” CNN has reached out to an attorney for Kelly for comment.
Prosecutors believe Gunn planned to attend Kelly’s sentencing on Wednesday after he posted another video saying he had a “place” for supporters to gather near the courthouse.
CNN has reached out to an attorney for Gunn, who is expected to have a detention hearing on Wednesday.