Seven women confronted R. Kelly on Wednesday about the abuse he inflicted on them, as the multiplatinum R&B singer prepares to learn his fate after being convicted of exploiting his stardom and wealth over decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex.
Kelly, 55, was convicted last September in Brooklyn federal court following a 5-1/2 week trial that amplified accusations that had dogged the singer of the Grammy-winning hit “I Believe I Can Fly” since the early 2000s.
In Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn federal court, women who testified against Kelly spoke about how he promised to mentor them and help them attain stardom, only to subject them to degrading sexual treatment and physical harm. Many said the abuse led to mental health problems that persist.
She then paused, looked at Kelly, and asked, “Do you remember that?”
Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has repeatedly denied sexual abuse accusations.
He wore a black face mask and beige prison clothing to Wednesday’s hearing. As some victims spoke, he tapped his fingers on his arm and looked at notes from his lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, who will sentence Kelly, dealt him a setback by saying federal sentencing guidelines recommend that he spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Prosecutors said Kelly should spend more than 25 years in prison for his conviction on charges of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
They have said he demonstrated a “callous disregard” for his victims and showed no remorse.
Lawyers for Kelly said he deserves no more than 10 years, the mandatory minimum, arguing his history as an abused child may have led to his adult “hypersexuality” and that he no longer poses a risk.
Another victim, Lizzette Martinez, said Kelly sexually assaulted her when she was 17, leaving her in a permanent struggle against depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives, and being abused is not an excuse,” said Martinez, now a 45-year-old mother.
Kelly also faces federal charges in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction, and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.