R. Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison in Sex-Crimes Case

Photo: E. JASON WAMBSGANS/AFP via Getty Images

Update, Tuesday, July 5 at 10:00 a.m.: R. Kelly has reportedly been taken off suicide watch, following the filing of a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Detention Center. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, told People that her client is not suicidal, alleging that the decision was made purely to punish him as a “high-profile inmate.” In a statement obtained by Billboard, prosecution say Kelly has been cleared to join gen pop. “Following a clinical assessment, plaintiff Robert Sylvester Kelly, also known as ‘R. Kelly,’ was removed from suicide watch as of this morning, July 5, 2022,” the government attorneys wrote. “Because plaintiff has already been removed from suicide watch, there is nothing more that the court can do for him.” Kelly is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence after being found guilty on all counts in his sex-crimes and racketeering case.

According to Bonjean, under suicide watch, Kelly would be held in a bare-bones cell, must eat without utensils, cannot shower or shave, and would be subject to 24/7 observation from prison officials. “MDC Brooklyn is being run like a gulag,” Bonjean said in a statement on Friday, July 1. “My partner and I spoke with Mr. Kelly following his sentencing, he expressed that he was mentally fine and ONLY expressed concern that even though he was NOT suicidal, MDC would place him on suicide watch (as they did following the guilty verdict).” She pointed to Ghislaine Maxwell as an example of another high-profile individual who was held at the same detention center and placed on suicide watch.

In response to Kelly’s lawyer’s accusations, a spokesperson from the Bureau of Prisons said, in part, “The BOP is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff and the public. Humane treatment of the men and women in our custody is a top priority.”

Original story, published June 29, 2022, follows.

R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty on all counts in his sex-crimes and racketeering case last year. “The public has to be protected from behaviors like this,” Judge Ann M. Donnelly told Kelly on delivering the sentence, per the New York Times. Seven victims gave impact statements, testifying about the ongoing trauma and mental-health effects of Kelly’s abuse, which goes back decades. “I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life,” a woman identified as Jane Doe No. 2 told Kelly in her statement. Kelly did not make eye contact with most of the victims. He did not speak, citing ongoing litigation, but his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, called him a “musical genius” and cited his own childhood sexual abuse to argue for a lesser sentence. “Mr. Kelly rejects that’s he’s this monster,” she said.

Prosecutors argued for a sentence “in excess of 25 years” for the 55-year-old singer, while his defense attorney asked for less than ten years, claiming prosecutors misunderstood the sentencing ranges for the charges. The sentencing came just after Judge Donnelly denied a request from Kelly’s attorney for a new trial.

The sentencing is the culmination of Kelly’s six-week trial in September 2021, which saw testimony from 11 accusers (six of whom were underage when the abuse began). Kelly was convicted of eight violations of the Mann Act — related to transporting people across state lines for illegal sexual activity. He was also convicted of one racketeering count; a complicated, landmark conviction hinged on the argument that Kelly’s actions were related to larger criminal plans. The racketeering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while each Mann Act violation carries a sentence of up to ten years.

After being found guilty, Kelly was imprisoned at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. In May, the New York Daily News reported that, in a bizarre turn, Kelly had become friends with Frank James, who’d been arrested for a shooting on the N train in April. (“They talk about TV shows,” one source said, calling them “buds.”) In the same article, sources claimed Kelly often sang in his cell and once performed “I Believe I Can Fly” in the jail’s visiting room.

While the sentencing closes the book on Kelly’s New York trial, it doesn’t mark the end of his saga of sex-crimes charges. On August 1, the singer is set to begin trial in his hometown of Chicago over charges of producing child pornography and obstruction of justice — the latter related to a 2008 trial in which he was acquitted. Bonjean had requested that the trial be delayed, in part due to Kelly’s imminent sentencing in New York; a judge denied the motion.

R. Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison in Sex-Crimes Case