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R. Kelly gets new 20-year jail term for child porn crimes

By Maggy Donaldson / AFP Published Feb 24, 2023 9:26 am

A US judge on Thursday handed disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly a 20-year prison term for child pornography and other charges—but he will serve most of it simultaneously with a previous sentence.

Kelly, 56, is already serving a 30-year sentence he received after a Brooklyn jury in a separate federal trial convicted him on racketeering and sex trafficking charges.

The judge in Chicago—Kelly's hometown, where he was once seen as a source of pride—ruled that most of the new sentence would be served concurrently with the previous one, with all but one year taken at the same time.

That Kelly will spend a maximum of 31 years in prison is a win for the defense, which urged in its sentencing memorandum that "a concurrent sentence is what fairness demands," accusing the prosecution of engaging in a "quest to ensure that Kelly never sees the light of day."

His lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, is appealing both of Kelly's federal convictions.

The artist born Robert Sylvester Kelly was convicted in September 2022 on six of 13 counts alleged in the Chicago trial: three counts of producing child pornography and three of enticement of a minor.

The singer known for hits including I Believe I Can Fly was acquitted by a federal jury of the seven other counts, including charges that he obstructed justice in a previous trial.

Kelly and two ex-associates had been accused of rigging the singer's 2008 child pornography proceedings in which a jury delivered a verdict of not guilty.

"With today's sentence, a sexual predator is being held accountable for the years of abuse he inflicted on minor victims," John Lausch, the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement. 

"Kelly used his celebrity and wealth to attract and victimize young girls," he continued. "We commend the courage and the strength of the victims who came forward in this case to expose Kelly's crimes."

The federal conviction in Chicago came one year after Kelly was convicted in New York of systematically recruiting teenagers and women for sex.

That verdict was widely seen as a milestone for the #MeToo movement: it was the first major sex abuse trial where the majority of the accusers were Black women.

It was also the first time Kelly faced criminal consequences for the abuse he was rumored for decades to have inflicted on women and children.

'Mute R. Kelly'

A Chicago native who soared to global celebrity on a burst of megahits in the 1990s, R. Kelly endured as one of R&B's top stars for years despite his tumultuous personal life -- including his ultimately annulled marriage to 15-year-old protegee Aaliyah.

But in the early 2000s, Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis anonymously received two tapes that appeared to show Kelly having sex with young girls, the second of which led to the artist's indictment for child pornography.

After years of trial delays during which he continued to tour and record, Kelly was acquitted on all counts in that controversial trial.

Reporters including DeRogatis continued to publish allegations of assault and abuse as two women in Atlanta founded the "Mute R. Kelly" movement, which encouraged boycotting his music.

It wasn't until January 2019, when a Lifetime docuseries once again aired the allegations, that a sea change began.

His label dropped him and as outrage boiled over, fresh legal action brewed: prosecutors levelled state charges against him after which federal prosecutors in both Illinois and New York indicted Kelly in 2019.

Given that he will now spend most if not all the rest of his life in prison, the Illinois state charges were dropped earlier this year.

"Holding the survivors in light today," tweeted Kenyette Barnes, co-founder of "Mute R. Kelly," just prior to the sentencing. (AFP)