NEW YORK | Fallen American R&B star R. Kelly, sentenced in September 2021 in New York for years of running a “system” of sexual exploitation of young people, including teenage girls, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.
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This heavy sentence against the 55-year-old singer was handed down by the federal court in Brooklyn, where his trial nine months ago had lifted the veil on sexual crimes within the black community in the United States.
According to reporters attending the hearing, the singer known worldwide for his hit “I Believe I Can Fly” did not say a word when the verdict was announced.
In their latest indictment, federal prosecutors asked for at least 25 years of criminal imprisonment because of the “danger” that R. Kelly, whose real name Robert Kelly, would represent to his victims and to the public.
The US Attorney’s Office deemed him “an impudent, manipulative, controlling and coercive, showing no sign of remorse or respect for the law.”
During the six-week trial last August and September, the fallen singer was described by the prosecution as “criminal, predator”.
Nine women and two men accused him of sexually abusing them, describing rape, forced drug use, imprisonment or even child pornography.
The man, who said he was raped when he was eight, was found guilty at the end of September 2021 on all charges: extortion, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, trafficking, corruption and forced labor, over a varying period from 1994 to 2018.
R. Kelly has always disproved the facts.
Throughout the trial, the former African American R&B star had remained silent, and had shown no particular emotion at the assertion of his guilt, contenting himself with lowering his head and closing his eyes.
Already in detention and awaiting another federal trial in Chicago in August, R. Kelly was hoping, through his lawyers, for a maximum sentence in New York of 17 years in prison.
This lawsuit was considered an important step in the #MeToo movement: it was the first time that most of the plaintiffs were black women and accused a black artist.
For Kenyette Barnes, who coined the hashtag #MuteRKelly (“Shut up R. Kelly”) in 2017, the same year as the global #MeToo movement sparked by the downfall of all-powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, American justice made it possible for first time to echo “the blood, sweat and tears of black women” that American society until now did not want to see.
Long before sexual violence became a topic for media and social networks in the United States, African American women fought to alert authorities and the public. But for one part of society, “women of color will neither be raped nor credible,” Ms. Barnes denounced in September.
The trial highlighted R. Kelly’s “system” of attracting very young women and sexually assaulting them, with the complicity of those around him, as in a sort of mafia enterprise, according to the prosecution. Many victims had recounted their encounter with their idol during concerts after which they were slipped a small piece of paper with the singer’s contact details.
He would do something for their musical career, he was promised.
Instead, they were “indoctrinated” in R. Kelly’s “sleazy” environment, forced into sex and kept in that “system” by “coercive measures”, according to the indictment.
Six women were the main accusers, some of whom claimed they were drugged to be raped, kidnapped, forced to abort and infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
For attorney Gloria Allred, who represents three of the six plaintiffs, the verdict against R. Kelly – the day after the 20-year jail sentence in Manhattan against former British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell for child sex trafficking – must serve sets an example for celebrities who use their “notoriety to prey on their admirers”.