By Brendan O’Brien
CHICAGO (Reuters) -A federal judge in Chicago on Thursday sentenced R. Kelly to one additional year in prison for his conviction on sex crimes, extending a 30-year sentence handed to the Grammy-winning R&B singer after an earlier trial in New York, local media reported.
At a 90-minute hearing, Judge Harry Leinenweber of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois in Chicago also ordered Kelly to serve 19 years simultaneously with the previous sentence, a local CBS affiliate and other media reported.
In September, Kelly – whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – was convicted in federal court of felony sexual exploitation of a child, enticement of a female, and possession of material containing child pornography.
“The nature of this offense is horrible, horrific,” Leinenweber said before handing down the sentence, CBS reported.
Kelly, along with two of his associates, were found not guilty of obstructing a 2008 state pornography case that ended with his acquittal.
During the five-week trial, several women took the stand and told jurors that Kelly sexually abused them when they were minors. The jury also saw a video of Kelly molesting his goddaughter, who testified that the abuse began in the 1990s when she was a teenager.
“I thought Robert loved me. To do the things he did, he in fact loathed me,” his goddaughter wrote in a victim statement read in court, CBS reported. “Robert shattered me.”
Prosecutors have accused Kelly of grooming and preying on women and girls as far back as the mid-1990s, when his music including the 1996 Grammy-winning song “I Believe I Can Fly” propelled him to fame.
Kelly’s behavior came under increasing scrutiny after the #MeToo movement began in late 2017, and Lifetime aired the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” in January 2019.
In the earlier case in New York, Kelly was convicted of multiple felonies including illegal sex with minors and sexual exploitation of minors.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago argued that the singer was so incorrigible that “the only way to ensure Kelly does not re-offend is to impose a sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life.” They wanted to add another 25 years to his existing 30-year sentence.
Defense attorneys said Kelly, who is 56 and suffers from diabetes, was already facing an effective life sentence with the 30-year term. They acknowledged that the judge must impose a sentence of 10 years, but contended that it should run concurrently.
They also questioned why federal prosecutors have dedicated significant resources to prosecuting a Black artist when, they argued, many of the biggest white stars in rock ‘n’ roll history had been accused of abusing underage girls and “none have been prosecuted and none will die in prison.”
Defense lawyer Jennifer Bonjean alleged a double standard, naming 11 white rock stars in her sentencing memo who have been accused of abusing underage girls and gone unpunished.
Kelly did not address the judge because he still faced prosecution in other jurisdictions and any statement could be used against him, Bonjean said.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mark Porter and Rosalba O’Brien)