Another One Bites the Dust: R. Kelly Sentenced To 30 Years 

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Photo of R. Kelly outside courthouse
R&B Singer R. Kelly leaving courthouse.

The Seraaj Files, by Kevin Seraaj

Less than a year after he was found guilty on racketeering charges for recruiting women and underage girls for sex, R&B singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of at least 25 years; Kelly’s defense team pleaded with the judge for leniency, saying the 55-year old Kelly “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”  U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly agreed with the prosecution.

According to Wikipedia, “[t]he identity of his father, who was absent from Kelly’s life, is not known.”   When I first saw R. Kelly (whose actual name is Robert Slyvester Kelly) perform I was immediately struck by his remarkable resemblance to one of my best friends and business partner, Robert Kelly– a Vietnam war veteran who died in the early ’80s as a result of complications from exposure to Agent Orange.  If Robert was in fact R. Kelly’s father, then I saw the young Kelly a number of times during his pre-teen years, and it is true he unfortunately did not spend much time with his father.  Maybe if he had, his life would have been very different. Robert Kelly was a good man– a good son to his mother Bernice, and a good brother to his sibling Lee, and a good friend to me. Bernice was a definitely positive influence on us all.

Kelly’s increasingly abusive humiliation of young women brought him repeatedly to the attention of authorities, but the singer was shielded by record company executives and actually defended by some of his victims– young girls described by their families as “brainwashed,” and “star-struck.” Several thought of themselves as Kelly’s “girlfriends,” and even denounced their parents for criticizing the singer. But parents understand that children almost always think they know more than they do.

Some of the young women who did complain accepted money and signed confidentiality, or nondisclosure, agreements, which frustrated prosecutors and possibly emboldened Kelly. But the allegations of sexual misconduct continued to mount until Kelly responded with his 19-minute long song “I Admit,” released on SoundCloud on July 23, 2018. He did not, by the way, admit to anything.

One of the women hurt by the singer, Kitti Jones, gave an impact statement that only hinted at the cruelty she experienced at Kelly’s hands, saying he “did things to [me I] plan to take to my grave.”

We have to end the victimization of children by adults. It’s a literal pandemic, happening somewhere every day. Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison for helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls. She was found guilty last December of conspiring with Epstein — her long-time associate and romantic partner — of recruiting and sexually abusing minors as part of Epstein’s trafficking ring. As a father and a grandfather I applaud these efforts of prosecutors. The sexual victimization and exploitation of children has to stop. And 20-30 year prison terms– religiously applied– might just give these abusers pause.

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