A United States court has sentenced singer R Kelly to serve 20 years in prison for charges of child pornography and enticement of minors for sex.
But US District Judge Harry Leinenweber announced on Thursday that Kelly could serve most of his new prison term at the same time as his previous 30-year sentence, which was handed down last year for racketeering and sex trafficking convictions.
The result is that Kelly will only serve one additional year of prison time, avoiding a lengthier stay behind bars had the judge agreed to prosecutors’ requests that the two sentences be served back to back.
In a statement read aloud to the court, a victim identified as “Jane” expressed the pain she endured as a teenager assaulted by Kelly.
“I have lost my dreams to Robert Kelly,” she wrote. “I have been permanently scarred.”
Government prosecutors had pushed for the new sentence to begin only after the 56-year-old Kelly had completed the previous 30-year sentence. They cited his lack of remorse and crimes against children.
They acknowledged that doing so would nearly guarantee that Kelly would spend the rest of his life in prison. With Thursday’s sentence, Kelly will serve a maximum of 31 years behind bars and become eligible for release around the age of 80.
Kelly’s lawyers had argued that the Grammy Award winner, who suffers from diabetes, was already facing what amounts to a life sentence.
From the beginning, Leinenweber said he did not accept the prosecutors’ argument that Kelly used fear to woo underage girls for sex.
“The [prosecutors’] whole theory of grooming was sort of the opposite of fear of bodily harm,” he told the court.
“It was the fear of lost love, lost affections,” he continued. “It just doesn’t seem to me that it rises to the fear of bodily harm.”
Two of Kelly’s accusers had asked that he receive greater punishment.
“When your virginity is taken by a pedophile at 14,” Jane said in her statement, “your life is never your own.”
Another woman who testified under the pseudonym “Nia” confronted Kelly directly in court, saying that his sentence ensured he would no longer “be able to harm children”.
In pre-sentencing filings, prosecutors described Kelly as a “serial sexual predator” who used his wealth and fame to attract fans, then sexually abuse and discard them.
In June, Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for three counts of producing child porn and three counts of enticing minors for sex. During that trial, Kelly’s lawyers argued that he should receive no more than a 10-year sentence due to circumstances that included “severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty and violence”.
Before his sentencing in that trial, Kelly was also confronted by victims who emotionally recounted the abuse they had suffered.
“You made me do things that broke my spirit. I literally wished I would die because of how low you made me feel,” one unnamed survivor said. “Do you remember that?”