Chicago appeals court rejects R. Kelly’s challenge of 20-year sentence

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CHICAGO (AP) — The singer R. Kelly was correctly sentenced to 20 years in prison on child sex convictions in Chicago, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

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Jurors in 2022 convicted the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, on three charges of producing child sexual abuse images and three charges of enticement of minors for sex.

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In his appeal, Kelly argued that Illinois’ former and shorter statute of limitations on child sex crime prosecutions should have applied to his Chicago case rather than current law permitting charges while an accuser is still alive.

He also argued that charges involving one accuser should have been tried separately from the charges tied to three other accusers due to video evidence that became a focal point of the Chicago trial.

Federal prosecutors have said the video showed Kelly abusing a girl. The accuser identified only as Jane testified for the first time that she was 14 when the video was taken.

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The three-judge panel from the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Friday’s ruling noted that jurors acquitted Kelly on 7 of the 13 counts against him “even after viewing those abhorrent tapes.”

The appeals court also rejected Kelly’s argument that he should not have been prosecuted since the allegations occurred while Illinois law required prosecution of child sex crime charges within ten years. The panel labeled it an attempt by Kelly to elude the charges entirely after “employing a complex scheme to keep victims quiet.”

In a written statement, Kelly’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean said they plan to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of the decision and “pursue all of his appellate remedies until we free R. Kelly.”

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“We are disappointed in the ruling, but our fight is far from over,” she said.

Prosecutors in Kelly’s hometown of Chicago had sought an even tougher sentence, asking for 25 years. They also wanted a judge to not let that time begin until after Kelly completed a 30-year sentence imposed in 2022 in New York for federal racketeering and sex trafficking convictions.

Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected that ask, ordering that Kelly serve the 20 years from the Chicago case simultaneously with the New York sentence.

Kelly has separately appealed the New York sentence.

In arguments last month before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Jennifer Bonjean asked the panel to find that prosecutors improperly used a racketeering statute written to shut down organized crime to go after the singer.

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