On Wednesday, June 29, the R’n’B star was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex crimes by federal court in New York. A look back at three decades of horrors.
It is a case that recalls, in a chilling way, those ofHarvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. On Wednesday, June 29, R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex crimes. A sentence that follows years of horror and abuse, perpetuated by the R’n’B star in the shadow of the spotlight and his celebrity. And that his victims, numerous, were finally able to expose.
It all started when the musician’s career exploded in the 1990s. Famous for his title I Believe I Can Fly (1996), rewarded with three Grammy Awards, R. Kelly, Robert Sylvester Kelly of his real name, sold millions of albums and became one of the heavyweights of R’n’B. But behind the success and the glitter hides a much more sordid reality, involving him in cases of pedophile relations with young minors.
Hiding this dark side from the media and the public, the star goes on to produce albums and wins numerous musical awards without anyone suspecting a thing. It was he who produced in 1994 Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (Age is just a number, editor’s note), the first album of Aaliyah, rising star of R’n’B, which quickly became a phenomenal success. She was 15 and he was 27 when he married her the same year. To unite forever, the couple go so far as to falsify their marriage certificate in order to make believe that the teenager is of age. The parents of the latter finally annul the marriage in 1995, which does not prevent R. Kelly from approaching other minors. Aaliyah, whose international career culminates with the cult title try again, in 2001, will disappear shortly after in a tragic plane crash, at the age of 22.
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R. Kelly’s “Cult”
As early as the 1990s, some victims dared to accuse R. Kelly. But most of these lawsuits end in an acquittal, a dismissal or an amicable agreement. Thanks to his notoriety, the musician manages to silence them, and from 1994 to 2019, escapes justice. Until the media seized the case, to finally reveal it. It was in 2017, several months before the Weinstein affair, that the public discovered the truth. the BuzzFeed media publishes an investigation by journalist Jim DeRogatis which reveals a whole system of sexual exploitation of minors, led by the one he considers to be the King R’n’B. Two years later, a documentary titled Surviving R. Kelly – available on Netflix – is streaming in the US. It brings together the testimonies of many young women and relatives of the singer, revealing his sordid practices.
Forcible confinement and sexual abuse
Using his notoriety to attract young girls, R. Kelly ended up kidnapping them. Promising to help them in their musical career, he indoctrinates them and keeps them against their will in properties he rents in Chicago or in the suburbs of Atlanta. The women who accuse the R’n’B star, say they were drugged and then raped, kidnapped, forced toabort and infected with sexually transmitted diseases, as related AFP. The survey published by BuzzFeed reveals in particular that they no longer had the right to their mobile phone, had to call their torturer “dad”, were obliged to ask permission to leave their room and became dressed in jogging – because the singer did not want their silhouettes are exposed. If a rule was not respected, they suffered sanctions, physical and verbal.
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Trial and conviction
R. Kelly was finally arrested in 2019 and charged with 10 charges, including “sexual exploitation of a minor”, “extortion”, “kidnapping”, “corruption”, “child pornography” or even “forced labor”. Delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its court case began in August 2021 and the singer was found guilty on September 27, 2021. A total of nine women and two men testified, describing rape, forced drug taking, forcible confinement and child pornography. Placed in pre-trial detention, he tries to appeal, but is finally sentenced to 30 years in prison for these 30 years of horror. A new victory for victims of sexual violence, 5 years after the conviction of Harvey Weinstein, and the advent of the Me Too movement.