The singer of the global hit “I believe I can fly” will end his flight in prison
R&B megastar R. Kelly fell from his throne and was convicted in September 2021 in New York of piloting a “system” of sexual exploitation of young people, including teenage girls, and was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.
This very strong sentence against the 55-year-old singer was pronounced by the federal court of Brooklyn, where his trial nine months ago had raised the veil on sexual crimes in the black community in the United States.
The star known worldwide for his hit I Believe I Can Fly and his 75 million records sold, did not say a word when the verdict was announced. He had also remained silent during the six-week trial last August and September.
Federal prosecutors had called for at least 25 years of criminal imprisonment because of the “danger” that this “criminal, predator” would represent for his victims and for public opinion.
Prosecutors have been very hard on Robert Sylvester Kelly, aka R. Kelly, for “using his notoriety (…) to prey on young, fragile and voiceless people for sexual gratification”.
Prosecutor Breon Peace said Kelly had “nothing but contempt for his devastating crimes and no remorse for his behaviour.
The victim, Lizzette Martinez, 45, told the press her “gratitude” that “Robert Sylvester Kelly has been put away, that he remains far away without being able to hurt anyone” after “the atrocious things inflicted on children.
When R. Kelly, who told in his autobiography that he was raped when he was eight years old, was convicted in September 2021 of all counts: extortion, sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping, trafficking, bribery and forced labour, over a period from 1994 to 2018.
His lawyer says he has always denied the facts and she assured Wednesday that his client was “not a monster” and that he would appeal his conviction.
This trial is considered a major step in the #MeToo movement: it is the first time that the majority of the complainants were black women and that they accused a black artist.
For Kenyette Barnes, the originator of the #MuteRKelly (“Silence R. Kelly”) tagline in 2017 – the same year as the global #MeToo movement sparked by the downfall of almighty Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein – the American justice system allowed for the first time to give voice to “the blood, sweat, and tears of black women” that American society did not want to see.
Long before sexual violence was a topic for the media and social networks in the United States, African-American women were fighting to alert the authorities and public opinion.
At the trial, nine women and two men accused the artist of sexually abusing them, describing rapes, forced drug use, kidnapping and child pornography.
The debates brought to light the “system” of R. Kelly to attract very young women and rape them, with the complicity of his entourage, as in a kind of mafia business. Many victims had told their meeting with their idol at the time of concerts after which one slipped them a small piece of paper with the coordinates of the singer.
They were promised that he would do something for their musical career.
Instead, they were “indoctrinated” in the “sordid” environment of R. Kelly, were forced to have sex and maintained in this “system” by “coercive measures”, according to the accusation.
Six women were the main accusers, some of whom claimed to have been drugged to be raped, sequestered, forced to abort and contaminated by sexually transmitted diseases.
For lawyer Gloria Allred, who represented three of the six plaintiffs, the verdict against R. Kelly – the day after the 20-year prison sentence pronounced by the Manhattan court against the British ex-Mondaine Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking of minors – must serve as an example for the relationships that stars can have with their fans.