Entertainment

R. Kelly to be sentenced on racketeering, sex trafficking charges

Prosecutors have recommended that Kelly be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison, arguing that the seriousness of the crimes he was convicted of calling for “the need to protect the public from further crimes.”
Kelly was convicted of nine counts including racketeering and sex trafficking charges after a five-week federal trial in Brooklyn that included testimony from multiple witnesses who say they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The trial also included testimony from multiple people involved with orchestrating Kelly’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was an adult after she believed she’d gotten pregnant.
Prosecutors said Kelly used his status as a celebrity and “a network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”

Defense attorneys argued Kelly should be sentenced to 10 years or less, saying any more than that would be “greater than necessary.”

Kelly is being held at a federal detention facility in Brooklyn, and once sentenced, is expected to be moved back to Chicago where he faces another federal trial in August for child pornography and obstruction charges.

childhood trauma

In over 14 hours of interviews with psychiatrist experts, Kelly said his closest relationship growing up was with his mother. His earliest memories were watching his mom perform as a singer in a band called “Six Pack,” and he would often accompany her to McDonald’s where she would drink coffee and they would share a pastry. He had never met his father and described his mother’s death as the most tragic event of his life, saying he would go to McDonald’s frequently to smell the coffee and remember her, according to a letter filed by Renee Sorrentino, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

“To me, the ‘M’ stands for mom. Going to McDonald’s is always being around my mother,” Kelly said.

But his childhood was also marked by trauma.

Kelly saw a childhood sweetheart grown when he was a little boy. And multiple people interviewed by psychiatrist experts say Kelly was repeatedly sexually abused beginning when he was a six or seven-year-old boy, his attorney wrote, saying he was abused by his older sister and also a landlord, at times on a “weekly base.”

Sorrentino said in her letter that Kelly’s childhood sexual abuse may have contributed to his “hypersexuality,” or difficulty controlling sexual urges, and believes it was a factor in his criminal convictions.

While Kelly was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, Sorrentino said she refused to diagnose Kelly with pedophilia because he told her his “sexual behavior has never involved prepubescent individuals.”

‘Tantamount to a life sentence’

In the nine months since his conviction, Kelly has replaced his entire legal team with Jennifer Bonjean and her firm, the attorney who helped Bill Cosby overturn his sexual assault conviction, and most recently, represented Cosby in a civil case that he lost at trial earlier this month.

Prosecutors have argued that Kelly “preyed upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification” for nearly 30 years with the help of his inner circle and that he must now be held accountable.

Bonjean writes that prosecutor’s request to jail the singer for more than 25 years would be “tantamount to a life sentence” for the 55-year-old singer.

R. Kelly convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking by a federal jury in New York

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor who has prosecuted cases using both the racketeering and Mann Act laws that Kelly was convicted of, said the judge will have broad discretion to impose a sentence she feels is appropriate.

“Typically after a trial, it’s tougher for a defendant to get his recommended sentencing range,” Honig said. “Now the judge has seen all the evidence against the defendant, has heard from victims and that tends to drive the penalty up.”

Prosecutors faced threats

The weekend before Kelly’s sentencing, a Chicago man named Christopher Gunn who had attended Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn was arrested and charged for making threats against the three US attorneys who prosecuted Kelly in New York, according to a copy of his arrest warrant.

Gunn was arrested Saturday for allegedly posting threats to kill or seriously insult the three female prosecutors. According to the arrest warrant, Gunn posted video to his YouTube channel in October, shortly after Kelly was found guilty, that showed an image of the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York where the women work. Prosecutors believe a voice narrating the video is Gunn’s, and he says, “That’s where they at. That’s where they work at … We’re going to storm the office,” saying each of the three prosecutors’ names.

“If you ain’t got the stomach for the sh*t we ’bout to do, I’m asking that you just bail out,” he allegedly said in the video.

Prosecutors also said they analyzed a CashApp account linked to Gunn that shows multiple transactions from February 26, 2021 to June 1 that they said indicate Gunn “engaged in the sale of firearm ammunition in relation to the Kelly matter.” Transactions included payments for $20 dollars with descriptions saying “30 rounds.. free R kelly.” CNN has reached out to an attorney for Kelly for comment.

Prosecutors believe Gunn was planning to attend Kelly’s sentencing on Wednesday after he posted another video saying he had a “spot” for supporters to meet up near the courthouse.

CNN has reached out to an attorney for Gunn for comment. He is expected to have a detention hearing on Wednesday.

Support for the singer

Among the letters asking for a lower sentence for Kelly is one written by Diana Copeland, Kelly’s former assistant who tested as a government witness and also wrote a letter in support of Kelly saying she did so because it was the “right thing to do.”

“God doesn’t want us to throw humans away,” Copeland wrote. “If we have the audacity to care for the perpetrators as well as the victims, we can all rise.”

Joycelyn Savage, who was considered a victim of Kelly’s by prosecutors, remains a supporter.

“Robert and I are deeply in love and it breaks my heart that the government has created a narrative that I’m a victim,” Savage wrote. “I’m a grown woman, and can speak for myself which is why I wanted to provide this letter to the court.”

In her letter, Savage revealed that she is now engaged to Kelly.

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