CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors in Chicago are asking for a 25-year consecutive prison sentence for R. Kelly for his conviction last year on child pornography charges, saying he’s a “serial sexual predator” who has shown no remorse for his crimes and tried to blame his victims for their own abuse.
In requesting that Kelly’s sentence run consecutively to the 30-year term he already received for a racketeering conviction in New York, prosecutors are essentially asking U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to ensure that the Chicago-born R&B superstar will die in prison.
In their 37-page filing late Thursday, prosecutors blasted allegations by Kelly’s attorneys that other famous and mostly white musicians who had relationships with underage girls were given a pass by the government.
“(Kelly) not only refuses to accept any responsibility for his conduct, but he repeatedly deflects any blame for his crimes, and instead advocates that he is being treated unfairly because, for example, ‘other artists and musicians’ should be prosecuted for these crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeannice Appenteng, Elizabeth Pozolo, Jason Julien, and Brian Williamson wrote. “Plain and simple, Kelly does not comprehend that what he did was wrong.”
The prosecutors also wrote that a consecutive sentence was necessary to “protect the community from Kelly, as he has shown no signs of rehabilitation.”
Kelly, 56, was convicted by a jury in September on charges including child pornography related to his years of sexual abuse of his goddaughter, “Jane,” as well as sexual misconduct with two other girls. He was acquitted, however, of the explosive allegations that he and others conspired to rig his initial Cook County trial in 2008.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn found Kelly guilty in 2021 of racketeering conspiracy charges alleging his musical career doubled as a criminal enterprise aimed at satisfying his predatory sexual desires.
The government’s sentencing memo illustrated the stark contrasts Leinenweber will have to sort through at Kelly’s sentencing hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Thursday.
While Kelly faces anywhere from 10 to 90 years for the Chicago conviction, the calculus that matters most is whether Leinenweber makes the sentence consecutive to Kelly’s sentence in New York, which would virtually guarantee he would never be released.
Kelly’s lawyers have asked for a concurrent sentence of about 11 years in prison, arguing that a consecutive term would be overkill and ignore significant mitigating factors, including Kelly’s own traumatic upbringing and the fact that many of the abuse allegations in the case were decades old.
Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s lead attorney, also argued in her filing last week that the federal government’s “obsession with ensuring that Kelly dies in prison” is troubling given that other famous and mostly white musicians — including Elvis Presley — were given a pass despite “credible histories of sexually abusing underage women.”
Presley met his future wife Priscilla in Germany in 1959, when she was 14 and he was 24. They began dating with her parents’ approval and he married her five years later after she became an adult.
Kelly’s five-week trial in Chicago featured some 34 witnesses. The jury was shown clips from three separate videos made in the 1990s allegedly depicting Kelly abusing Jane, including the same tape from his Cook County trial as well as another where he instructed her to refer repeatedly to her “14-year-old” genitalia.
Jane, as she was know in the trial, testified for the first time that not only was it her on the videotapes, but that Kelly had sexually abused her “innumerable” times when she was a minor, at his recording studio, his home, on tour buses and in hotel rooms.
Asked on the witness stand why, after two decades of silence, she finally decided to come forward and speak out, Jane said: “I became exhausted with living with (Kelly’s) lies.”
The jury’s split verdict came 14 years after Kelly’s infamous acquittal on similar charges in Cook County, which were based on a single video of Kelly allegedly abusing Jane in the hot tub room of his former home on West George Street. Jane had refused to cooperate in that case.
Kelly was also found guilty on three out of five counts related to enticement of a minor involving Jane and two other victims who came forward to testify against him.
But in a rare loss for federal prosecutors, the jury acquitted Kelly and two co-defendants on sensational charges they conspired to retrieve incriminating tapes and rig his 2008 trial by pressuring Jane to lie to investigators about their relationship and refuse to testify against him.
Kelly was also found not guilty of filming himself with Jane on a video that jurors never saw. Prosecutors said “Video 4″ was not played because Kelly’s team successfully buried it, but defense attorneys questioned whether it existed at all.
Bonjean is appealing Kelly’s conviction and sentence in Brooklyn’s federal court, where an appellate brief is due next month. She’s also planning to appeal his conviction in Chicago to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Other than those appeals, which could take years, Kelly’s long legal road appears to be coming to an end. Last month, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced she was dropping four separate Cook County indictments against Kelly, in part to conserve resources given his two federal convictions.
Kelly is also facing a charge of solicitation in Minnesota, though no trial date has ever been set in that case and the likelihood of it moving forward would appear to be very remote.
Bonjean’s sentencing memo filed last week delved deeply into Kelly’s own traumatic childhood in Chicago, including being shot in the arm at age 14 while riding his bike, witnessing frequent domestic violence, and being repeatedly sexually abused by a sister and family friend.
“Kelly was a damaged man in his late 20s with an extraordinarily traumatic childhood that he failed to confront,” Bonjean wrote. “He lacked the insights or ability to appreciate the ways in which his traumatic childhood impacted his unhealthy sexual development and harmful choices.”
While prosecutors alleged Kelly sexually groomed Jane and other vulnerable teen girls, Bonjean characterized Kelly’s relationships as more complicated, noting that both Jane and her friend, “Pauline,” acknowledged on the witness stand that at times they felt love for him.
Jane told the jury she “felt good” about their initial interactions, Bonjean’s memo stated, and that she felt “that he loved me, that he would take care of me, that he was my protector.”
“Jane did not say she feared Kelly or that he said or did anything to instill any type of fear in her that caused her to have sexual contact with him,” Bonjean wrote.
But prosecutors in their filing Thursday said Kelly “brazenly blames his victims” while refusing to accept responsibility for his crimes.
“At the age of 56 years old, Kelly’s lack of remorse and failure to grasp the gravity of his criminal conduct against children demonstrates that he poses a serious danger to society,” prosecutors said.