R. Kelly could not look his survivors in the eye as they stood before the 55-year-old to describe through tears how his abuse forever altered their lives shortly before the disgraced R&B singer was sentenced on federal sex trafficking charges on Wednesday afternoon.
Seven women addressed Kelly one by one in Brooklyn’s Eastern District Court, with some detailing how they were teenagers when Kelly began grooming and sexually abusing them and expressing how they were speaking up to ensure no one else had to be subjected to his abuse.
“I am Javonte. I am Tiffany. I am Aaliyah Dana Haughton,” survivor Jovante Cunningham said, referring to other Kelly accusers and survivors who were not in court. “I am a representation of every woman, boy, child, man that you have ever afflicted with your deplorable, inexplicable acts and with that I leave you with yourself, Robert Sylvester Kelly.”
“With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,” she added. “You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.”
Dressed in khaki jail scrubs, Kelly did not look at the women reading their impact statements, rather staring straight ahead, even when a survivor’s father implored him to look him in the eye “man to man,” according to The New York Times.
At other points Kelly was whispering to his legal team, causing one woman, identified as Jane Doe No. 2, to stop in the midst of recalling how he had forced her to perform oral sex on him in a car filled with his friends because Kelly was so engrossed in conversation with his attorney. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to interrupt his conversation,” she said, gesturing towards Kelly, whose arms were crossed.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole,” she continued when Kelly stopped talking. “What you did has left a permanent stain on my life that I will never be able to wash away. I’m sure you never think about that.”
Kelly was convicted last September on nine counts of racketeering and Mann Act violations for running a sex trafficking ring, with nearly a dozen women and men accusing the singer of sexual abuse at the trial.
At Kelly’s sentencing, Cunningham was the first survivor to speak, followed by Addie, who was 17 years old when she met Kelly at a concert in September 1994. “I did not know that going to that concert would change my life forever,” Addie said, her voice wavering and the judge’s clerk later bringing over a box of tissues. “I am only seeking justice. I get no restitution. I have no rights due to Florida law. I only have my concert program and my trauma from that evening.”
“Freedom is not free. We have to be constantly fighting for our basic human rights,” she added, thanking the prosecutors for their work convicting him. “I once lost hope in the justice system, but you restored my faith.”
A third woman, who identified herself as Lizzette Martinez, described how she met Kelly walking around a South Florida mall with her friends. Abused as a child, when she was aged six and 12, Martinez said she believed “sexual abuse was part of my life” yet she was still a “happy 17-year-old with big dreams, an optimistic view of who I was and who I would become.”
But Kelly took advantage of her desire of being a singer and had “groom[ed] me to believe he was the only person who would help me.” “I had to do what he said or else,” she said.
Martinez recalled how she was once taken to a house party in Miami Beach, where she was instructed to drink alcohol and was later taken into a room and sexually assaulted. When she turned 18, she claimed that the abuse escalated. “Turning 18 now gave him the opportunity to travel to Chicago to be his sex slave,” Martinez said, breaking into tears. “I just want you to sit with yourself and get help and realize what you did.”
In 2018, Martinez said she decided to speak out because she finally understood it wasn’t her fault. “I no longer felt guilt,” she explained. “Robert destroyed my young adult life. He took away my innocence. Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives, being abused is not an excuse.”
Jane Doe No. 2 said she had met Kelly in 1999. “I was a teen, and you were a 31-year-old pedophile ready to ruin another young lady’s life,” she said. “I always wondered why no one was doing anything to stop you … when millions of people saw you on a video basically raping a 14-year-old girl.”
“You are an abuser, you are shameless, you are disgusting, and you are self-serving,” she added. “I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.”
Kitti Jones also spoke, breaking into tears shortly after taking the lectern. Before meeting Kelly, she described having a great job and a rich social life. From 2011 to 2013, Jones said, she endured Kelly’s abuse “including humiliation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe weight loss due to punishment of days going without food.” There were things Kelly did to her that she “plans to take to my grave.”
“I was living the life of my dreams — then I met him,” she recalled. “I’ve never gone back to being the social butterfly I once was.”
Faith was the second to last to speak, joined by her father, Charles, who hugged his daughter when she began to cry. “My dad was molested as a child—he never molested me,” she said, referring to Kelly’s attorneys’ recent bid for leniency claiming he had been sexually abused when he was young. To my parents, I want to apologize for allowing myself to forget about the way that you all raised me … I lied to them. I wound up being abused and humiliated.”
“I hope you forgive yourself,” she added. “I forgive myself.”
Charles then addressed Kelly, saying he wasn’t here to “bash” the singer. Instead, Charles said he wanted to ask Kelly to acknowledge him. “I do want to ask you, Mr. Kelly, to look at me, man to man, father to father,” he said. “Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve certainly put myself in your shoes.” Kelly didn’t look at him.
Last to speak was Sonia. “For almost two decades, I have lived in fear,” Sonia said, saying shortly thereafter, “I was threatened, I was watched by his entourage, I was followed.”