R Kelly to serve just extra year in prison for convictions for child pornography and enticing minors for sex
R Kelly is to serve just one additional year in prison for child pornography and enticement of minors for sex after completing his 30-year racketeering sentence.
A federal judge in Chicago on Thursday handed the disgraced singer a 20-year prison sentence for the convictions but said he will serve nearly all of the sentence simultaneously with the 30-year jail term imposed last year in New York on racketeering charges.
US District Judge Harry Leinenweber ordered that Kelly serve just one extra year in prison following the completion of his New York sentence.
The central question going into the sentencing in Kelly's hometown of Chicago was whether Leinenweber would order the 56-year-old Grammy Award winner to serve the sentence simultaneously with or only after he completes the New York term. The latter would have been tantamount to a life sentence.
With Thursday's sentence, though, Kelly will serve no more than 31 years. That means he will be eligible for release at around age 80, providing him some hope of one day leaving prison alive.
Jurors in Chicago convicted Kelly last year on six of 13 counts: three counts of producing child porn and three of enticement of minors for sex.
In a statement read aloud in court at the sentencing, a woman who testified under the pseudonym “Jane” said she had lost her early aspirations to become a singer herself and her hopes for fulfilling relationships.
“I have lost my dreams to Robert Kelly,” the statement said. “I will never get back what I lost to Robert Kelly. I have been permanently scarred by Robert.”
The woman was a key witness for prosecutors during Kelly’s trial; four of his convictions are tied to her.
“When your virginity is taken by a paedophile at 14 - your life is never your own,” Jane’s statement read.
Another accuser, who used the pseudonym “Nia”, attended the hearing and addressed Kelly directly in court. Speaking forcefully as her voice quivered, Nia said Kelly would repeatedly pick at her supposed faults while he abused her.
“Now you are here - because there is something wrong with you,” she said. “No longer will you be able to harm children.”
Kelly rose from poverty in Chicago to become one of the world's biggest R&B stars. Known for his smash hit I Believe I Can Fly and for songs such as Bump n' Grind, he sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.
In pre-sentencing filings, prosecutors described Kelly as "a serial sexual predator" who used his fame and wealth to reel in, sexually abuse and then discard star-struck fans.
US Assistant Attorney Jeannice Appenteng on Thursday urged the judge to set a longer sentence and keep Kelly in prison "for the rest of his life".
Kelly's abuse of children was all the worse, she said, because he "memorialised" his abuse by filming victims, including Jane. She told the court Kelly "used Jane as a sex prop, a thing" for producing pornographic videos.
In pre-hearing filings, Kelly's lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, accused prosecutors of offering an "embellished narrative" in an attempt to get the judge to join what she called the government's "bloodthirsty campaign to make Kelly a symbol of the £MeToo movement".
Ms Bonjean said Kelly has suffered enough, including financially. She said his worth once approached one billion US dollars (£830 million), but that he "is now destitute".
In court on Thursday, Ms Bonjean said Kelly will be lucky to survive his 30-year New York sentence alone. To give him a consecutive 25-year sentence on top of that "is overkill, it is symbolic," she said. "Why? Because it is R Kelly."
She also argued that Kelly's silence should not be viewed as a lack of remorse.
She said that while she advised Kelly not to speak because he continues to appeal his convictions and could face other legal action, "He would like to, he would like to very much."