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Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Jason Meisner, Megan Crepeau

R. Kelly attorneys ask for sentence of about 11 years for Chicago federal conviction stemming from sex abuse of teen girls

CHICAGO — Lawyers for R. Kelly early Friday asked a federal judge in Chicago to sentence the disgraced R&B singer to about 11 years in prison for his conviction last year for repeatedly sexually abusing his teenage goddaughter and others on videotape decades ago.

In a court filing early Friday, Kelly’s lead attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, wrote the singer is already facing what amounts to the rest of his life in prison given the 30-year term handed down for his conviction on racketeering charges in New York in 2021.

Any additional prison time he receives for his Chicago case should be served concurrently, Bonjean wrote in arguing for a sentence of as little as 132 months — the low end of federal guidelines.

“Such a sentence punishes Kelly for conduct that is over a quarter-century old while taking into account his individual characteristics that include his own horrific child sexual abuse that shaped him and provides some explanation (not an excuse) for the conduct that underlies his convictions in this case,” Bonjean wrote in the filing.

Kelly, 56, was convicted by a jury in September on charges including child pornography related to his years of sexual abuse of “Jane,” and two other girls. He was acquitted, however, of the explosive allegations that he rigged his initial Cook County trial in 2008.

Kelly has already been sentenced to 30 years after a jury in New York found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges alleging his musical career doubled as a criminal enterprise aimed at satisfying his predatory sexual desires.

Prosecutors are expected to file their sentencing recommendation next week. Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on Feb. 23.

Bonjean wrote in her 34-page memo 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.”

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 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, as she was known in the trial, 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.

After about 11 hours of deliberation, the jury of seven women and five men also acquitted Kelly and his two former associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, of conspiring to receive the footage that was shown in court. Jurors apparently determined that while the videos they saw were authentic, they could not say beyond a reasonable doubt that Kelly’s team schemed to get them back or even knowingly obtained them.

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.

Kelly faces up to 90 years behind bars for the Chicago conviction, though sentencing guidelines call for far less. Leinenweber also has the discretion to order his sentence to be served consecutively to the term imposed in New York, which would virtually endure the singer would remain behind bars for the rest of his life.

Bonjean is appealing Kelly’s conviction and sentence in Brooklyn’s federal court, where an appellate brief is due next month. She’s also planned to appeal his conviction in Chicago to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Earlier this 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.


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