Women who were trafficked and abused by singer R Kelly wept with relief outside court on Wednesday, as the 55-year-old was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
Seven women spoke before Judge Ann Donnelly sentenced him, with one anonymous victim telling him: ‘You degraded me, humiliated me and broke my spirit. I wished I would die because of how you degraded me.’
Donnelly, whose sentence was even harsher than the federal prosecutors requested, told Kelly: ‘You left in your wake a trail of broken lives.’
Lizzette Martinez, who was a 17-year-old cheerleader at North Miami Beach Senior High School when she met a then-28-year-old Kelly, said she was glad the trial was over.
She described herself to the reporters as an ‘up-and-coming singer, a girl full of life’ before she met R Kelly. She said she then became ‘a sex slave.’
‘I never thought that I would be here to see him be held accountable for the atrocious things that he did to children,’ she said, speaking outside the Brooklyn courtroom.
She said his 30-year sentence was not enough, ‘but I’m pleased with it. It’s fine.’
Martinez, who spoke with her attorney Gloria Allred by her side, told the court earlier that he started abusing her two months after they met.
‘I was left in shock, confused and in tears,’ she said.
‘I do not know how to put a price on all I’ve gone through. I am now 45, a mother and I struggle with mental health.’
Kelly did not look at Kelly Martinez as she spoke.
‘Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives,’ she told him.
Lizzette Martinez, 45, is seen on Wednesday speaking outside court, with her attorney Gloria Allred by her side
Martinez was a 17-year-old high school cheerleader in 1995 when she met then 28-year-old Kelly
Martinez in court told Kelly: ‘Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives’
Martinez is seen on Wednesday leaving court with her attorney, Gloria Allred
Jovante Cunningham, who was 14 when she met the singer and then became one of his backing dancers, echoed Martinez in saying she never dared dream of justice.
‘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.
‘Thirty years did he do this, and 30 years is what he got.’
She told reporters outside court: ‘Being in a situation as such affords you the ability to be re-victimized over and over again in different areas of your life.
‘When you are taught to be quiet and to keep silent about things that should be spoken about openly, you find yourself reclused.
‘And that often affords people the ability to manipulate you.’
Asked who forced her to keep quiet, she replied: ‘Society. When people are telling you you’re not telling the truth and there’s no support.’
Jovante Cunningham met R Kelly when she was 14, and became one of his backing dancers
Cunningham leaves the courtroom following the sentencing of singer R. Kelly for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse
Cunningham said she never dared hope for justice
Gloria Allred arrives for the sentencing of Kelly on Wednesday
Gloria Allred, the lawyer for the victims, said she was proud of the them for their fight.
‘They wanted the court to understand their pain,’ she said.
‘Together they were able to fight his power by becoming empowered,’ she added. ‘I’m proud of all of them.’
Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, praised the women for their bravery in coming forward.
He said the sentence is a ‘significant’ outcome for all his victims, calling Kelly ‘a predator.’
‘He continued committing his crimes for almost 30 years and avoided punishment — until today,’ Peace said.
‘These are the voices of mostly black and brown women and children who were heard and believed.
‘Justice was finally achieved. This is a victory for them, for justice, and victims of sexual assault.
‘Victims must be heard, perpetrators must be held accountable, and women and children must be protected.’
He said he hopes the sentencing shows that ‘it doesn’t matter how rich, and famous’ an abuser is to be brought to justice.
Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, also spoke outside court.
Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s lawyer, spoke to the gathered media outside court
Bonjean denied that her client was ‘a predator’ and said they plan to appeal
‘He’s not a predator,’ Bonjean said.
‘He has regrets and he is sad,’ she added.
‘He disagrees with the characterizations that have been made about him.’
Bonjean, who said Kelly ‘was prepared for it,’ added they plan to appeal: ‘Thirty years in prison is like a life sentence for him.’
Kelly, 55, was convicted on sex-trafficking and racketeering charges last September following a nearly six-week trial.
Accusations had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ since the early 2000s.
Breon S. Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the sentence is a ‘significant’ outcome for all victims of R Kelly, who he called ‘a predator.’ He added, ‘He avoided punishment — until today’
Judge Ann Donnelly handed down Kelly’s sentence in Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday, despite the defense lawyers’ request for a sentence of 10 years or less.
Prosecutors had asked for at least 25 years.
Donnelly told Kelly that ‘the most seasoned investigators will not forget the horrors your victims endured.’
She continued: ‘These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years.
‘You taught them that love is enslavement and violence.’
Kelly, who declined to speak at his sentencing, learned his fate after some of his accusers told the court, through tears and anger, that he had preyed on them and misled his fans.
He was also was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his trial.
It has not been revealed where Kelly would spend his sentence.
Disgraced R&B star R Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sex trafficking and abusing young girls as the judge told him ‘the public has to be protected’
Attorney Jennifer Bonjean comforts R Kelly at his sentencing hearing for federal sex trafficking at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Wednesday
R Kelly and his attorney Jennifer Bonjean, left, during his sentencing hearing in federal court, Wednesday
Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been detained at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his trial. It has not been revealed where Kelly would spend his sentence (pictured in 2019)
What was R Kelly found guilty of at his trial?
R Kelly stood trial Brooklyn federal court last year after he was accused of being the ringleader of a sex ring involving women and underage girls and boys.
The charges were first brought in a five-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn federal court in July 2019.
In March 2020, he was slapped with additional charges upgrading the case to a nine-count indictment.
The charges relate to allegations involving six alleged victims – five women named as Jane Does in the indictment and the singer Aaliyah. These charges are:
ONE COUNT OF RACKETEERING – GUILTY
The racketeering charge includes 14 underlying acts including: one act of bribery, three acts of sexual exploitation of a child, one act of kidnapping, three acts of forced labor and six acts of violating the Mann Act.
Racketeering charges are used where there is an ‘enterprise’, mob or mafia running organized crime operations.
In this case, Kelly is accused of running a racketeering ‘enterprise’ for two decades made up of his ‘inner circle’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees who would help him recruit women, girls and boys for him to sexually exploit and traffic them around the US.
To convict Kelly on the racketeering charge, jurors had to find him guilty of at least two of the 14 acts.
EIGHT COUNTS OF VIOLATING THE MANN ACT – GUILTY
The Mann Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to traffic people across state lines for prostitution or illegal sexual activity.
Four of these charges relate to an incident involving Jane Doe #5 in 2015 while the other four involve Jane Doe #6 in separate incidents in May 2017 and February 2018.
Three of these charges involve Kelly allegedly exposing the two women to herpes without informing them.
The sentence caps a slow-motion fall for Kelly, who was adored by legions of fans and sold millions of albums even after allegations about his abuse of young girls began in the 1990s.
Widespread outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct didn’t come until the #MeToo reckoning, reaching a crescendo after the release of the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly.’
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.
Allegations that Kelly abused young girls began circulating publicly in the 1990s.
He was sued in 1997 by a woman who alleged sexual battery and sexual harassment while she was a minor, and he later faced criminal child pornography charges related to a different girl in Chicago.
A jury there acquitted him in 2008, and he settled the lawsuit.
But last year, the jury convicted the ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ hitmaker after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were 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.’
Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.
According to testimony, Kelly gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.
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 said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.
Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’
She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
The abuse continued for years while Kelly continued to sell millions of albums.
Kitti Jones wipes her tears as she gave her statement on Wednesday at R Kelly’s sentencing hearing, and said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave’
R Kelly learned his fate after his accusers, including Kitti Jones, told the court, through tears and anger, that he had preyed on them and misled his fans
Victims stare down R Kelly in court and slam him for using ‘fame and power’ to groom children ‘for your own sexual gratification’
Earlier on Wednesday, seven women delivered victim impact statements before he was sentenced.
Several testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
One of the victims, Angela, stood in court, looked directly at Kelly and called him a ‘Pied Piper’ who ‘lured children with his money and celebrity.’
‘With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,’ she said. ‘You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.
‘Today we reclaim our names.
‘We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were.’
‘I pray that god reaches your soul,’ she said, as Kelly glanced up at her briefly before lowering his eyes back to the table where he sat.
The second victim to speak in court on Wednesday said she never knew that a concert in September of 1994 would change her life forever.
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday.
‘I never knew that going to that concert in September of 1994 was going to change me forever,’ she said.
Addie said she was a fan of the singer Aaliyah.
Addie says Kelly sexually assaulted her on the night of his concert and did not see him again until the trial.
For decades, she stayed silent, because ‘it was a time of silence,’ she said, which is something she says she now regrets.
‘The last four years have been a rude awakening of how my silence has hurt others.’
Addie, who previously testified at Kelly’s trial but never gave her name, took several breaths before reading her statement Wednesday
Lizette Martinez, one of the women featured in the docuseries ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ delivered a statement at R. Kelly’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Pictured: Martinez speaking at screening in 2019
AT TRIAL IN 2021: Witness ‘Angela,’ a backup dancer for R. Kelly, testified during his sex abuse trial last year. At his sentencing on Wednesday, Angela returned to give an impact statement
‘Angles’ said she saw Kelly perform oral sex on Aaliyah when she was just 13 years old aboard a tour bus in the early 1990s
A fourth victim, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, addressed the court next, detailing how a sweaty Kelly would make her perform oral sex on him after he had returned from playing basketball.
‘I felt special, because someone who was special to the world was interested in me,’ she said.
As she continued on with her statement, Kelly began to speak with his lawyers prompting the witness to stop and hold up her hand.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, looking at Kelly. ‘I don’t want to interrupt his conversation.’
‘No price is too high to pay for your happiness,’ she said. ‘I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.’
The next woman, Kitti Jones, said that Kelly did things to her that she ‘plans to take to my grave.’
‘Many of us have been waiting for this day to come,’ she added.
A fourth victim, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, told the court at R Kelly’s sentencing that he would make her perform oral sex on him after he had returned from playing basketball. ‘No price is too high to pay for your happiness,’ she said. ‘I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life’
The next woman to give her statement, only identified as Faith, spoke directly to Kelly, with her father by her side.
‘I hope you forgive yourself,’ she said as she began to cry. ‘I forgive myself.’
Her father then addressed the court.
‘I didn’t come here to bash Mr Kelly,’ he said. ‘I do want to ask you, Mr Kelly, to look at me, man to man, father to father.
‘Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve certainly put myself in your shoes.’
Sonja, also known as Jane Doe No. 3, was the final woman to speak on Wednesday before court broke for lunch.
She had previously testified at trial that she was imprisoned and raped at Kelly’s home in Olympia Fields, Ill. in 2003.
Prior to the hearing on Wednesday, she had emailed a statement to the court that she did not wish to read in full.
But she left the court with a few powerful words.
‘I was scared for my life,’ she said, recalling how Kelly would have people follow her every move over the years.
‘I hope and I pray to God that we can all heal,’ she said.