R Kelly has come face to face with several of his victims in court, listening as they condemned his “despicable” abuse and described him as “the pied piper of R&B” ahead of his sentencing.
At his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the court heard victim impact statements from seven women, presented anonymously as “Jane Does”, who confronted the disgraced singer over his “God-like complex” and said he used “fame and power” to entice his victims.
Dressed in a black face mask and grey prison-issue uniform, having been in custody since 2019, Kelly looked straight ahead as the emotional statements were read out.
“The pied piper of R&B, both in music and in technique and in approach,” a woman using the pseudonym Angela said as she addressed him in the courtroom. “Success and love… you presented these glittering gems as if they were gold.
“With every addition of a new victim you grew in wickedness, cockiness, diminishing any form of humanity or self-awareness, which soon became the breeding ground for your God-like complex.
“You were doing, saying and encouraging despicable things that no one should be doing. We reclaim our names from beneath the shadows of your afflicted trauma.”
Another woman told Kelly: “You are an abuser, you are shameless, you are disgusting.”
Several accusers and witnesses – men as well as women – had testified against the singer during his trial, with the court hearing how he subjected his victims to perverse and sadistic abuse when they were underage.
Once one of the biggest music stars in the world, a three-time Grammy winner whose chart-topping hits include I Believe I Can Fly, Bump ‘N’ Grind and Ignition, the full horror of some of his crimes was finally laid bare.
Real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, he had denied all the charges, his lawyers calling his accusers “disgruntled groupies” and saying they were lying, arguing that any “relationships” were consenting.
However, the jury believed the survivors. Kelly was found guilty of all nine charges brought against him – one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violating a law which prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
Among multiple sordid allegations, jurors heard testimony about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B artist Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15.
Lawyers for Kelly have said he plans to appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors had argued before the hearing that he should spend more than 25 years in prison, saying he demonstrated a “callous disregard” for his victims and showed no remorse.
But lawyers for Kelly said he deserved no more than 10 years, the mandatory minimum, arguing his history as an abused child may have led to his adult “hypersexuality” – and saying he no longer poses a risk to the public.
Kelly is also facing a second trial in Chicago in August that could see additional convictions and prison time. In that case, he is accused of possessing child pornography and obstruction of justice.