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September 27, 2021

R. Kelly now likely facing a long sentence after convictions on all federal sex trafficking charges

I have not been following the federal prosecution of R. Kelly closely, but a whole bunch of news alerts today let me know he is now entering the sentencing stage.  This CNN piece sets out the specifics of the guilty verdict: "Kelly was found guilty of nine counts -- one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act.  Of the 14 underlying acts for the racketeering count, he needed to be found guilty of at least two to be convicted of that count.  Jurors found prosecutors had proven all but two of the 14 underlying racketeering acts."  And, based in part on this NBC News account and other discussions of his wrongdoing, federal sentencing is likely to be grim for Mr. Kelly:

R. Kelly, the R&B superstar who has long been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse, was found guilty Monday on all counts in a high-profile sex-trafficking case, capping a trial that featured hours of graphic testimony from the singer’s accusers.

Kelly, who has been in custody for much of the time since he was formally charged in 2019, was convicted on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a law that bars the transport of people across state lines “for any immoral purpose.”

Kelly, best known for the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” pleaded not guilty to all charges in the case. The singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, did not take the stand in his own defense.

The prosecutors in the trial, which centered around the allegations of six people, alleged that the singer was a serial sexual predator who abused young women as well as underage girls and boys for more than two decades. Prosecutors further alleged that the singer and his entourage led a criminal enterprise that recruited and groomed victims for sex, arranging for them to travel to concerts and other events across the U.S.

In a closing argument that lasted two days, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes accused Kelly and his entourage of using tactics from “the predator playbook” to control his victims. Kelly’s alleged tactics included confining victims in hotel rooms or his recording studio, managing when they could eat and use the bathroom, and forcing them to follow various “rules,” including demanding they call him “Daddy.”

“It is now time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted on each of his victims,” Geddes said Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.  “It is now time for the defendant, Robert Kelly, to pay for his crimes. Convict him.”...

​​The singer’s lawyers attempted to portray his accusers as “groupies” who sought to exploit his fame and take advantage of the #MeToo movement.  Deveraux Cannick, one of Kelly’s defense lawyers, argued that testimony from several of his client’s accusers was false, saying in his closing argument: “Where is the fairness to Robert? Where’s the integrity of the system?”...

“Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime documentary series released in 2019 that featured testimony from several accusers, intensified calls for the singer to face legal consequences for his alleged pattern of abuse.  Kelly was previously acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008.

Though I doubt anyone will make a follow-up documentary titled "“Sentencing R. Kelly,” I will certainly plan to keep an eye on this case in the months to come because I suspect the feds will be seeking a pretty steep sentencing term (based on what should be severe guideline calculations) while the defense will surely seek a way below-guideline sentence.  The sentencing is apparently not scheduled until May 2022, so we will all have plenty of time to make predictions.

September 27, 2021 at 04:07 PM | Permalink


Doug: Do you have any insight or ideas about why R. Kelley's sentencing hearing was set off so far into the future, until May 2022? Seven or eight months is a big gap between conviction at trial and sentencing. I am more accustomed to seeing a few months gap.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Sep 27, 2021 7:04:10 PM

As a former USPO - I have seen this in some cases for a number of reasons. This is a complex case and the 7-8 months, while long, takes into account the time the USPO has to prepare the initial PSR. Then, there is the objection period, which there will be numerous since this was a trial verdict. After objections, the USPO prepares an addendum addressing the objections and the final PSR. In addition, you have many victims and a big part of the PSR will be the victim impact section. The defendant in this case also has an extensive financial history and compiling, verifying, and documenting that in the PSR will take time as well. Just my thoughts.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Sep 28, 2021 8:01:35 AM

I share the sense that this is a long "runway" for sentencing, but the points atomicfrog raises are good ones. I also wonder if there is a bit of COVID thinking --- maybe by May we can have a "normal" courtroom, the positive thinking goes, since there will be lots of victims with a right to speak at sentencing and a lot of media interest. Also, there are, I believe, other federal charges AND state charges in other jurisdictions, which may also be additional scheduling factors if any of those charges are supposed to go to trial in coming months.

Most critically, with the defendant already in custody, the feds have no interest in rushing. So why not give all the time needed to sort through a challenging set of particulars.

Posted by: Douglas Berman | Sep 28, 2021 4:52:12 PM

What a complete travesty of justice. We can only hope it will be reversed as was Cosby.

Posted by: restless94110 | Sep 28, 2021 6:10:22 PM

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