NEW YORK – On June 29, Robert Sylvester Kelly, the R&B singer also known as “R. Kelly,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly to 30 years in prison. On September 27, 2021, following six weeks of trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Kelly of all nine counts of a superseding indictment charging him with racketeering predicated on criminal conduct including sexual exploitation of children, forced labor and Mann Act violations involving the coercion and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Steve K. Francis, Acting Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced the sentence.
“R. Kelly used his fame, fortune and enablers to prey on the young, the vulnerable and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification, while many turned a blind eye,” stated U.S. Attorney Peace. “Through his actions, Kelly exhibited a callous disregard for the devastation his crimes had on his victims and has shown no remorse for his conduct. With today’s sentence he has finally and appropriately been held accountable for his decades of abuse, exploitation and degradation of teenagers and other vulnerable young people. We hope that today’s sentence brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victims, including those who bravely testified at trial, and serves as long-overdue recognition that their voices deserve to be heard and their lives matter.”
Mr. Peace also thanked the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for their assistance with the case.
“Robert Kelly is a prolific serial predator who utilized his wealth and fame to prey on the young and vulnerable by dangling promises of fame, fortune and stardom for his own sexual gratification. For nearly thirty years, Kelly and his accomplices silenced his victims through bribery, intimidation, blackmail and physical violence, confident they were immune to justice” stated HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Steve K. Francis. “Today’s sentence is a victory which belongs to the survivors of Kelly’s abuse. These brave women and men came forward, despite threats to their own personal safety, and were forced to relive the pain of the most traumatic days of their lives to tell the truth and make their voices heard.”
As proven at trial, for nearly three decades, Kelly was the leader of a criminal enterprise (the Enterprise) consisting of himself and an entourage of individuals who served as managers, bodyguards, accountants, drivers, personal assistants and runners for the defendant. As the leader of the Enterprise, Kelly used his fame to recruit women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with him. Kelly identified these girls and women at concerts, and then directed members of the Enterprise to escort them backstage following his musical performances. Kelly exchanged contact information with girls and women so that he and other members of the Enterprise could arrange travel and lodging for them to visit Kelly and engage in the charged illegal sexual conduct.
The evidence at trial included the testimony of 45 government witnesses, including more than 10 victims, five of whom are named in the superseding indictment, testimony from employees of the defendant, text messages, video and audio recordings, photographs, phone and travel records, DNA evidence and expert witnesses.
Kelly issued rules that many of his sexual partners were required to follow, including that the women and girls were to call him “Daddy”; they were not permitted to leave their rooms to eat or visit the bathroom without receiving his permission; they were required to wear baggy clothing when not accompanying Kelly to an event; and they were directed to keep their heads down and not look at or speak to other men. Kelly also isolated the women and girls from their friends and family and made them dependent on him for their financial well-being. He required the victims to engage in sex with him and others, and recorded many of the sexual encounters.
Racketeering Act One – Bribery
Kelly bribed a state employee to create an identification card for Jane Doe #1, then 15 years old, so that Kelly could marry Jane Doe #1 because he believed she was pregnant and therefore the marriage could keep him out of jail.
Racketeering Acts Two, Seven and Ten – Sexual Exploitation of a Child – Jane Doe #2, Jane Doe #4 and Jane Doe #5
Kelly coerced Jane Doe #2, Jane Doe #4 and Jane Doe #5 to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing video recordings. Over the course of decades, he made these recordings, and other recordings of sexually explicit conduct, using VHS video cameras, Canon camcorders, iPhones and iPads. Such videos constituted child pornography.
Racketeering Acts Six, Eleven and Thirteen – Forced Labor – Jane Doe #4, Jane Doe #5 and Jane Doe #6
Kelly used the threat of physical harm and physical restraint to ensure that his victims, including Jane Doe #4, Jane Doe #5 and Jane Doe #6, performed sexually at his command. As to Jane Doe #4, he slapped her, choked her and spit on her, before demanding she give him oral sex. As to Jane Doe #5, over a period of years, he spanked her, viciously assaulted her, confined her to a room or a bus for prolonged periods of time, including days, and otherwise manipulated her, to ensure that she would perform for him sexually, including with other women and a man. As to Jane Doe #6, he forced her to give him oral sex while there was a gun within Kelly’s reach.
Racketeering Acts Five and Nine – Mann Act Violations – Jane Doe #4 and Jane Doe #5
Between May 2009 and January 2010, Kelly regularly spoke with Jane Doe #4 over the telephone to arrange for Jane Doe #4 to come to his residence in Olympia Fields for the purpose of illegal sexual activity, which was illegal because Jane Doe #4, who was then 16 years old, was too young to consent to sex in Illinois. Similarly, between September 2015 and October 2015, Kelly transported Jane Doe #5, who was then 17 years old, from New York City to Oakland, California for the purpose of illegal sexual activity, as she was too young to consent to sex in California.
Racketeering Acts Eight, Thirteen and Fourteen – Mann Act Violations – Jane Doe #5 and Jane Doe #6
In April 2015, Kelly arranged for Jane Doe #5 to fly from her home in Orlando, Florida, to Los Angeles, California, for the purpose of illegal sexual activity, which was illegal because Kelly knew he had an incurable sexually transmitted disease (STD) and did not inform Jane Doe #5 about the STD prior to engaging in sexual intercourse with her. In May of 2017 and again in February of 2018, Kelly arranged for Jane Doe #6 to fly from her home in San Antonio, Texas, to La Guardia Airport in Queens, New York, for the purpose of illegal sexual activity, which again was illegal because Kelly failed to disclose that he had an incurable STD and obtain Jane Doe #6’s consent to engage in sexual intercourse under those circumstances.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth Geddes, Nadia Shihata and Maria Cruz Melendez are in charge of the prosecution.
ROBERT SYLVESTER KELLY (also known as “R. Kelly”)