The convicted sex offender was sentenced in a Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday, June 29.
He was accused of abusing his power and celebrity status to target vulnerable young girls and boys. Prosecutors had called for him to receive more than 25 years behind bars in order to “protect the public”, while his attorneys argued that he should have received “no more than ten years” behind bars as a result of his “traumatic childhood”.
Ahead of his sentencing, a number of women to the stand. A woman identified as “Angela” called the singer a “Pied Piper” who “grew in wickedness” with every victim, while another said, “I literally wished I would die because of how you made me feel.”
Kelly declined to make a statement and did not react as his sentence was announced.
Kelly has faced numerous allegations relating to child sexual abuse since the 1990s. In 2017, a Buzzfeed article alleged that Kelly had trapped six women in a sex “cult” after they approached him for help with breaking into the music industry.
The article’s publication encouraged more victims to come forward, and in January 2019, a documentary titled Surviving R Kelly which detailed the allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct against the singer, aired on US TV.
Shortly after, the singer angrily asserted that he was innocent during an interview with Gayle King on CBS.
He was eventually arrested in July, and convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in September 2021. He has been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York City since 2019.
Jovante Cunningham, a former backup singer for Kelly, spoke to reporters after the sentencing. “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,” she said. “I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome.”
The singer also faces separate charges for child pornography and obstruction of justice in a federal case in Chicago. A trial is set for August 1.