At 56 years old, it is unlikely that R. Kelly, formerly an international R&B superstar — now the world’s most infamous pedophile— would ever be a free man again.
After all, Kelly is serving a 30-year sentence for a federal racketeering conviction in New York and is still facing prostitution charges in Minnesota.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber tacked on 20 more years on three counts of producing child pornography and three counts of enticing minors into criminal sexual activity to what already could be a life sentence for Kelly, given his age.
But 19 of those years will be served concurrently with the New York sentence.
If he survives, Kelly will be an old man when he walks out of prison.
I can’t predict the future, but more than likely, Kelly will never have the fame and fortune that allowed him to lure underage girls into a sexual trap.
Leinenweber could have been reading my mind in explaining the sentence he handed down.
“He was grooming young girls when he was in his 20s, he was a millionaire, and he was a superstar.
“Few girls would be susceptible to his charms as an 80-year-old with no money and no prospects,” the judge said, according to AP.
At 85, Leinenweber ought to know.
Still, the fact that R. Kelly got what amounts to one additional year in prison for his depraved acts against young Black girls is difficult to swallow.
“One year is an insult to kids victimized everywhere,” retired nurse @nancynursez637 wrote on Twitter.
“This is exactly what is wrong with the judicial system in Chicago. That’s not even a slap in the hand. So much for justice for the victims,” added Twitter user Alex Justin @hm2nx49j4.
The R. Kelly prosecution was about more than a powerful and wealthy man taking advantage of young girls.
It was about how easily young Black girls could be sexually exploited, and no one seeming to care — not the parents who were responsible for them, or the grown men who arranged for the underage girls to meet Kelly or all the other people who saw the evil happening and didn’t sound an alarm.
Even after Kelly’s perversions became public, many people continued to support him and blame his victims.
The Kelly prosecution was supposed to result in justice for the Black and Brown women whose young lives were derailed.
It took decades, but eventually, these women had their day in court, told their stories and trusted that justice would be served.
After the court system took turns prosecuting Kelly, Cook County state’s attorney dropped four sex abuse cases pending against him in Cook County, acknowledging the lengthy prison term he was already serving.
Under the circumstances, while Leinenweber’s sentencing made sense, it missed the mark.
Leinenweber may have made the right call, but his decision to play God leaves people flummoxed.
Also on Thursday, another notorious sexual abuser, Harvey Weinstein, was sentenced after being convicted of the rape and sexual assault of an Italian actor in 2013.
Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench sentenced Weinstein to 16 years in prison to be served consecutively.
“The prison term, along with the 23 years he received in 2020 for a similar conviction in New York, amounts to a likely life sentence for the 70-year-old,” AP reported.
Weinstein, whose victims were primarily beautiful white women, maintained his innocence.
His accuser told the judge, “There is no prison sentence long enough to undo the damage,” AP reported.
That may be true.
But Weinstein’s victim will be satisfied knowing she was heard and her abuser got the sentence he deserved.
We can’t say the same thing about R. Kelly’s victims.
Although Leinenweber’s sentence makes sense, there will always be that nagging question: What if?