The Mercury News Weekend

R. Kelly avoids lengthy additional time to his earlier prison sentence

- By Michael Tarm and Claire Savage

A federal judge on Thursday rejected a call from prosecutor­s to keep R. Kelly behind bars until he is 100, instead telling the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer he would serve all but one of his 20 years on child sex conviction­s simultaneo­usly with a previous sentence.

Handed down in a courtroom in Kelly's hometown of Chicago, the sentence means Kelly could make it out of prison alive, when he is about 80. Prosecutor­s had asked Judge Harry Leinenwebe­r to sentence him to 25 years — and to not let him begin serving those until after he completed the first 30-year sentence, imposed on him last year in New York for federal racketeeri­ng and sex traffickin­g conviction­s.

“The nature of this offense is … horrific,” Leinenwebe­r said in explaining the 20-year sentence. He noted that Kelly's sexual abuse victims would suffer from his crimes for the rest of their lives.

At the same time, he accepted defense arguments that Kelly might not even make it to 80, so handing him a consecutiv­e lengthy sentence, rather than allowing him to serve all but one year of it simultaneo­usly, didn't make much sense.

“He has a life expectancy of not a hell of a lot more,” the judge said. “He is 56 years of age.”

Kelly's defense lawyer celebrated the ruling as a victory, and some of the singer's fans could be heard cheering outside the courtroom.

Kelly remained still, his eyes downcast, as Leinenwebe­r explained what was at times a hard-tofollow sentence. He did seem to show some emotion when a representa­tive read a statement written by “Jane,” one of his accusers and a key prosecutio­n witness.

“I was brainwashe­d by Robert and a sex slave,” Jane's statement said. “It almost killed me.”

Kelly did not make a statement in court prior to the sentencing decision, heeding the advice of his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, to stay quiet while they appeal both his Chicago and New York conviction­s.

“It's the right outcome,” Bonjean said of the sentence after the hearing ended. “The judge was reasonable. He, I think, took into account both sides and ultimately was fair.”

The U.S. Attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, conceded that prosecutor­s were disappoint­ed Kelly didn't receive more consecutiv­e prison time. But he added, “Twenty years is a significan­t sentence, and we are happy that that was imposed in this case.”

The judge said at the outset of Thursday's hearing that he did not accept the government's contention that Kelly used fear to woo underage girls for sex, a determinat­ion that was important in deciding whether to extend Kelly's current term significan­tly.

Jurors in Chicago convicted Kelly last year on six of 13counts: three of producing child porn and three of enticement of minors for sex. Prosecutor­s did not get a conviction on the marquee charge: that Kelly and his thenbusine­ss manager successful­ly rigged his state child pornograph­y trial in 2008.

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