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R. Kelly Convicted On Sex Trafficking Charges, But What Happens If He Gets Out Of Prison?

R. Kelly interview with Gayle King on CBS News.
(Image credit: CBS News)

The judge recently handed down a lengthy prison sentence to Robert Sylvester Kelly — a.k.a. R. Kelly, who is well-known for his R&B hits from the ‘90s — after he was found guilty in September 2021 on one count of racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law. The 55-year-old singer was sentenced to 30 years in prison, which means he presumably could be a free man again when he’s in his 80s. However, as prosecutors warned of his continued danger to society and lack of remorse, there will be a number of conditions and restrictions Kelly will have to follow if that day comes.

When handing down the 30-year sentence, TMZ reports, Judge Ann M. Donnelly said upon his release from prison, R. Kelly will be required to undergo mental health treatment that includes therapy for an unspecified sexual disorder. During the trial, Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean (who also represented Bill Cosby) had argued for a shorter sentence on the basis of her client’s "hypersexuality" that resulted from sexual abuse as a child.

The judge also ordered that R. Kelly would have to avoid contact with anyone under 18. The only way he could be in the presence of anyone younger would be if it was a family member or in a therapeutic setting with a “responsible adult” present, and that would have to be approved in advance by his probation officer. 

He would also be required to inform anyone choosing to live with him that he is a sex offender and would remain under supervised release for five years after leaving prison.

R. Kelly has already been in jail since July 2019. Forty-five witnesses testified in the case against the singer, with accusations including that he lured fans and hopeful singers into sexually abusive situations and would lock victims in rooms for days with no bathroom access or food. 

The sentencing came nine months after he was found guilty of all nine federal sex crimes and followed decades of allegations that began in the 1990s when he illegally married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah Haughton, who died in 2001. Despite being arrested in 2002 on 21 counts of child pornography, the case took six years to go to trial and the singer was ultimately acquitted. But accusations started again in the following years, including that he was brainwashing women in 2017, and he was sued for sexual battery in 2018.

The allegations against R. Kelly were spotlighted in the 2019 Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly (now available to Netflix subscribers) and he was arrested shortly thereafter.

The court battles aren’t over for the R&B singer, despite the 30-year prison sentence. He will next stand trial in Chicago on federal charges of obstruction and child pornography, and he also faces state charges in Illinois and Minnesota. We’ll have to see if the upcoming lawsuits result in more time added to his sentence.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.