Singer R Kelly was on Wednesday sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing women, girls and boys, more than 20 years after first facing allegations.
Kelly’s conviction has been viewed as a victory for survivors of sexual violence, particularly those who may hesitate to speak out against abusers, for fear of retribution.
A jury in New York City last September found Kelly guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering, on all nine counts against him.
On Wednesday, US district judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence at the federal court in Brooklyn after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly’s exploitation reverberated across their lives.
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At the trial, victims had described how Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage. Several said he would demand that they strictly obey rules such as needing his permission to eat or go to the bathroom, and writing “apology letters” that purported to absolve him of wrongdoing.
Ahead of sentencing on Wednesday, some of the victims made statements, including “Angela”, who said “with every addition of a new victim you grew in wickedness”. On this day of sentencing “we reclaim our names”, she said. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were.”
In her victim statement, Lizette Martinez said: “Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives.”
Another, unnamed victim who directly addressed Kelly as he kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast, said: “You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel. Do you remember that?”
Kelly did not address the court.
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