Latest sentence offers R Kelly the prospect of being freed from jail one day

The verdict, delivered in a courtroom in Kelly’s hometown of Chicago, means Kelly could get out of prison alive when he’s about 80 years old.

Prosecutors had asked Judge Harry Leinenweber to sentence him to 25 years – and only serve it after he served the first 30-year sentence he was given in New York last year.

“The nature of this offense is appalling,” said Judge Leinenweber, explaining the 20-year sentence. He noted that Kelly’s sexual abuse victims would suffer from his crimes for the rest of their lives.

R Kelly’s defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean welcomed the ruling (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)©Matt Marton

At the same time, he accepted defense arguments that Kelly might not even make it to 80, so handing him a consecutive long sentence instead of allowing him to serve all but a year of it at once didn’t make much sense.

“He has a life expectancy of not much more,” the judge said. “He is 56 years old.”

Kelly’s defense attorneys hailed the verdict as a victory, and some of the singer’s fans cheered outside the courtroom.

Kelly remained standing, eyes downcast, as Judge Leinenweber explained what was sometimes a difficult sentence to follow.

He appeared to show some emotion as a representative read a statement written by “Jane”, one of his accusers and key prosecution witnesses.

“I was brainwashed by Robert and a sex slave,” Jane’s testimony reads. “It almost killed me.”

Kelly made no statement in court ahead of the sentencing decision and took the advice of his attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, to remain silent while they appealed his convictions from both Chicago and New York.

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“It’s the right result,” Ms. Bonjean said. “The judge was reasonable. He, I think, considered both sides and was fair in the end.”

R Kelly is already serving 30 years in prison for racketeering (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)©Matt Marton

US Attorney in Chicago John Lausch admitted that prosecutors were disappointed that Kelly did not receive another prison sentence.

But he added: “Twenty years is a significant sentence and we are glad it was handed down in this case.”

The judge said early in the hearing that he did not accept the government’s contention that Kelly used fear to solicit underage girls for sex, a decision that was important in deciding whether Kelly’s current term should be significantly extended.

“The whole theory of personal hygiene (the government) was kind of the opposite of fear of physical harm,” the judge told the court.

R. Kelly’s uncle, Gregory Preston, left, and other family members speak to reporters after the sentencing (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)© Charles Rex Arbogast

“It was the fear of lost love, lost affection (from Kelly)”. It just doesn’t seem to me that it leads to the fear of physical harm.”

Two of Kelly’s accusers asked the judge to punish him severely.

“If you have your virginity taken by a pedophile at 14 – your life is never yours,” Jane’s statement said.

Another accuser, using the pseudonym “Nia,” approached Kelly directly in court. Voice trembling, Nia spoke vigorously and said Kelly would repeatedly point out her alleged flaws while he was abusing her.

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“Now you’re here — because there’s something wrong with you,” she said. “You will no longer be able to harm children.”

A Chicago jury last year convicted Kelly on six of 13 counts: three of manufacturing child pornography and three of seducing a minor into sex.

Prosecutors were not convicted on the marquee charges: that Kelly and his then-executive director successfully rigged his state child pornography trial in 2008.

Kelly rose from poverty in Chicago to become one of the biggest R&B stars in the world. Known for his hit song “I Believe I Can Fly” and sex-inspired songs like “Bump n’ Grind,” he sold millions of albums even after allegations of his abuse of girls became public in the 1990s.

Prosecutors described Kelly as “a serial sexual predator” who used his fame and fortune to capture, sexually abuse, and then discard adoring fans.

Assistant US Attorney Jeannice Appenteng urged the judge to keep Kelly in prison “for the rest of his life.”

Kelly’s abuse of children is particularly appalling, she said Thursday, because he “created a memorial” to his abuse by filming victims, including Jane.

Ms Appenteng told the court Kelly “used Jane as a sex prop, a thing” to produce pornographic videos.

But Ms Bonjean has accused prosecutors of offering a “embellished narrative” to get the judge to join the government’s “bloody campaign to make Kelly a symbol of the #MeToo movement”.

The singer has suffered enough, including financially, Ms Bonjean said. She said his worth was once close to $1 billion (£840million) but he is “penniless now”.

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Given his age and current sentence of 30 years, Ms Bonjean said sentencing Kelly to an additional 25 years was “exaggerated”.

“It’s symbolic,” she said. “Why? Because it’s R Kelly.”

Shortly before Kelly was re-arrested on Thursday, he asked that he not be placed under suicide watch because constant scrutiny by guards “is inherently cruel” and “creates mental health problems,” Ms Bonjean said.

“He expected it,” she told the judge. “Mr. Kelly isn’t suicidal.”


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