Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter R. Kelly was sentenced to over three decades in prison on Wednesday, June 29, after being convicted and found guilty of federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges. His lawyers have already revealed plans to appeal the decision.
Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for the disgraced R&B singer, claims that her client was “overcharged,” referencing the singer’s one count of racketeering charge. Before sentencing, Bonjean told reporters at a press conference that they “were prepared” and that “we are now prepared to fight this appeal.”
“We are excited for this appeal that we are bringing. Obviously, you know, it was a hard day. He has been sentenced to a serious sentence, but we are confident in our arguments that we raised in our post-trial motions, that although they didn’t persuade the district court judge, they will persuade the court of appeals,” Bonjean said later in a statement following the decision.
“We’ve always believed in those arguments, and we believe that this enterprise was overcharged and that the circuit, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, will see it that way,” she added.
Last September, a jury convicted the “Ignition” singer on nine counts, including one racketeering charge and eight violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors accused the Chicago native of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
Authorities had initially asked the presiding official U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly to sentence the 55-year-old star to more than 25 years, while his defense requested 10 or fewer, citing that more than 25 years was “tantamount to a life sentence,” CNN reported.
“Although sex was certainly a weapon that you used, this is not a case about sex,” Judge Donnelly said following the decision. “It’s a case about violence, cruelty, and control. You left in your wake a trail of broken lives.”
Donnelly said she also considered the star’s own traumatic childhood. During the trial, Kelly’s attorneys said the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member and a landlord.
In her statement, the judge said that the singer’s experience “may explain, at least in part, what led to your behavior. It most surely is not an excuse.”
Jovante Cunningham, a former backup singer for Kelly, applauded the sentencing, telling reporters outside the courthouse, “I started this journey 30 years ago. There wasn’t a day in my life up until this moment that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls.”
She added, “I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors, and very pleased with the outcome.”