CHICAGO, IL—U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced R&B star R. Kelly, 56, to 20 years in federal prison on Thursday, February 23, for child pornography charges and sexual misconduct with minors. Kelly is currently serving 30 years for sex trafficking and racketeering charges that he was convicted of in 2021 in a New York court. 

Nineteen of the years that he is ordered to serve for his latest convictions will be served concurrently with his existing prison time which means he will only get a year added on to the sentence he is already serving. 

U.S. Attorney John Lausch said his office was “absolutely” disappointed there wasn’t more of a consecutive sentence for Kelly, but that either way, “20 years is a significant sentence.”

Kelly was found guilty in September 2022 on three counts of child pornography and three counts of child enticement, but was acquitted of a fourth pornography count, as well as a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him of fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008.

His lawyer Jennifer Bonjean requested that Kelly receive the minimum sentence of 10 years while prosecutors demanded a 25-year sentence arguing that Kelly’s “desire to sexually abuse children is insatiable” and such a sentence was required “to protect the community from him.” Bonjean argued that the prosecutors wanted to give him a harsher punishment due to Kelly’s celebrity status. 

Judge Leinenweber argued that when Kelly is released from prison he will be in his 80s and “will be unlikely to offend again,” stating that those in their 80s are more likely to be focused on health concerns that come along with aging than grooming young women.   

Multiple victims made statements at his court hearing on Thursday. One victim, who has been only identified by the pseudonym “Jane,” stated, “Every time I walk into a room, it feels like the child pornography tapes arrive a couple minutes before I do. I am rarely seen. My teenage years and adulthood have been built through the lens of a pedophile.” Jane also shared that she gave up on her aspirations to become a singer and hopes of fulfilling relationships. “When your virginity is taken by a pedophile at 14, your life is never your own,” she said. Four of Kelly’s convictions are related to her. 

Another accuser, who went by the pseudonym “Nia” addressed Kelly directly in court. “Now you are here…because there is something wrong with you,” she said. “No longer will you be able to harm children.”

As victims read statements to the court, Kelly stared straight ahead and did not look in the direction of the victims as they walked past his table. 

He chose not to speak in court when asked by the judge and received support from his fans during the hearing.