For years, the US singer R Kelly has been sexually assaulting girls and women. Only a TV documentary can stop the processes. In a first trial there is now a penalty. Further procedures are pending.
Former pop superstar R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison in an abuse trial. This was announced by Judge Ann Donnelly at a court in New York. A jury found the musician guilty on all nine charges, including sexual exploitation of minors, kidnapping and bribery, last year after a trial lasting several weeks. Kelly, who appeared in court with black glasses, a black corona mask and a khaki top, had always denied the allegations.
Before Judge Donnelly handed down the sentence, seven of Kelly's victims told their stories one after the other, some in tears. Some of the women looked and spoke to him directly - but Kelly either stared straight ahead at the notes on the table in front of him or spoke quietly to his defense attorneys. They also said they were attacked online by fans of the singer who didn't believe them.
Prosecutors had accused the former superstar of, among other things, sexual exploitation of minors, kidnapping, forced labour, bribery and sex trafficking in the years 1994 to 2018. According to the indictment, he had built up an entire network of helpers to recruit young girls and women to satisfy his sexual desires. He is said to have locked up some of his victims and brutally abused them.
The indictment sought more than 25 years in prison and a fine of between $50,000 and $250,000 for the "I Believe I Can Fly" singer, who has been in prison since his arrest in the summer of 2019. Such a punishment is appropriate, among other things, because of the seriousness of his crimes, and Kelly is still a danger, it said. The musician's lawyers had demanded a significantly lower sentence.
Before the sentence was announced, there were also renewed discussions in court about the musician's financial situation. While prosecutors claimed that Kelly was owed millions from rights sales, the musician's defense dismissed this, saying he was effectively bankrupt. "His music is no longer played," said attorney Jennifer Bonjean. "We can see it in his royalties, since the trial they have gone down extremely."
The process is - after cases like those of film producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Bill Cosby - another much-noticed legal reappraisal of the MeToo era. Representatives of the MeToo movement had already celebrated the verdict against Kelly.
The first allegations against the musician, born Robert Sylvester Kelly in Chicago in 1967, were made around 25 years ago. In 2008 he was tried for possession of images of serious sexual abuse of children - and was acquitted. The music colossus seemed unassailable on its pop throne. With more than 50 million albums sold, several Grammys and other awards, he was one of the most successful musicians of the late 20th century.
But at the latest when the sensational documentary "Surviving R. Kelly" summarized the allegations in 2019, the singer became more and more lonely. Stars distanced themselves from him, as well as radio stations, streaming services and then his music label RCA, which belongs to Sony Music.
With the sentencing in New York, the legal disputes for Kelly are not over yet: There are also charges against the musician in the US states of Illinois and Minnesota. A trial in Chicago is scheduled to begin in mid-August.