NEW YORK — R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for using his superstardom to subject young fans — some just children — to systematic sexual abuse.
55 year old singer and songwriter was convicted last year of racketeering as well as sex traficking. The trial provided a voice for accusers who were once wondering if their stories were being forgotten because they are Black women.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly’s exploitation reverberated across their lives.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” said one unnamed survivor, directly addressing a Kelly who kept his hands folded and his eyes downcast. “Do you remember that?”
Kelly was not present at the court.
Learn More The Complete Timeline of Sexual Abuse Claims Against R. Kelly
This sentence sums up Kelly’s slow fall. Kelly was loved by millions and sold millions of albums, even though there were allegations of his sexual abuse of young girls.
Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t come until the #MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries R. Kelly: Surviving.
Kelly’s lawyers had argued he should get no more than 10 years in prison because he had a traumatic childhood “involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”
As an adult with “literacy deficiencies,” the star was “repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him,” his lawyers said.
The hitmaker is known for work including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic The Closet is the Place to BeThis is a multi-part tale about sexual betrayal, intrigue, and more.
Kelly was accused of abusing young girls. This allegation first became public in the 1990s. In 1997, a young woman filed a lawsuit against Kelly alleging sexual battery and harassment. Later, he was charged with child pornography for an incident involving a Chicago-area girl. He was acquitted by the jury in 2008.
Kelly was able to continue selling millions of albums.
After hearing that he had used his entourage managers and aides in order to meet and maintain the obedience of girls, prosecutors convicted him.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, used his “fame, money and popularity” to systematically “prey upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing earlier this month.
Kelly was accused of a variety of perverse and sadistic acts when Kelly was underage.
The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.”
Many said that they thought the tapes of their sex were going to be used against them, if they revealed what was being done.
Kelly, who was accused of giving herpes to multiple people, without telling anyone, coerced an 18-year old boy to have sex with him and a naked girl, emerged from under a garage boxing ring, shot a shameful video in which one victim was seen smearing his feces all over her face.
Kelly denies any wrongdoing. He didn’t testify at his trial, but his then-lawyers portrayed his accusers as girlfriends and groupies who weren’t forced to do anything against their will and stayed with him because they enjoyed the perks of his lifestyle.
Evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. Witnesses stated that Kelly married her in matching jogging pants using a license which falsely listed his age at 18 while she was actually 27.
Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album. Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.At 22 years old, she was killed in an airplane crash.
An earlier defense memo suggested prosecutors’ arguments for a higher sentence overreached by falsely claiming Kelly participated in the paying of a bribe to a government official in order to facilitate the illegal marriage.
Unless someone comes forward, The Associated Press won’t name anyone who says they were sexually abused or assaulted. The women who spoke at Kelly’s sentencing were identified only by first names or pseudonyms.
Kelly was jailed indefinitely since 2019. He’s still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where a trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.
Journalists of the Associated Press Jennifer PeltzAnd Ted Shaffrey contributed.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME