R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in a New York court on Wednesday. He had been convicted of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which “prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution,” per Variety.
Rumors of sex trafficking, abuse, and pedophilia have followed the artist for years; he notoriously illegally married the singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old while producing her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. He was indicted in 2002 when video leaked of Kelly having sex with a minor, but he was eventually acquitted. However, his behavior received renewed attention in 2019 with the release of a Lifetime documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, which featured testimony from several victims.
According to the New York Times (per Variety), several of his victims spoke at the sentencing hearing in Brooklyn. “With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness. You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification,” said one woman. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were. Pray that god reaches your soul.”
“It’s been 23 years since we knew each other, and you’ve victimized a lot of girls since then,” said another, per CNN. “Now it’s your turn to have your freedom taken from you.”
Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, who helped Bill Cosby to overturn his sexual assault conviction, said they were “prepared” for the sentence while addressing the media outside the courthouse. “We are now prepared to fight this appeal,” she said.
In the wake of his sentencing, Kelly is expected to be moved to Chicago, where he faces charges of obstruction and child pornography. According to Variety, additional charges have been filed in state courts in Illinois and Minnesota.