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During R. Kelly’s sentencing hearing this week, prosecutors alleged that Kelly had funneled millions of dollars worth of music royalties through a childhood friend around the time of his sex trafficking trial.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly sentenced the disgraced singer to 30 years in prison on Wednesday. Kelly, 55, had been found guilty by a federal jury in Brooklyn in September of sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, kidnapping, racketeering and sex trafficking.
During the hearing, which lasted nearly three hours, defense attorneys and prosecutors argued over whether the singer could afford to pay a fine. While Kelly’s defense claimed he couldn’t, prosecutors alleged that he had made millions in royalties, CNN reports. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes alleged that Kelly had access to this money and that he secretly funneled the money to a childhood friend around the time of his 2021 trial for safe keeping, Yahoo! News reports.
Geddes claimed that Kelly received revenue from both his Sony master recordings royalties and the rights to his composition and lyrics. She alleged that Kelly personally held on to those rights until August 2021, the very month that his high profile trial began. They were sold that month for $5 million and Geddes alleged Kelly's childhood friend Keith Halbert has been holding that money.
Kelly's attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who also represented Bill Cosby, claimed that she doesn’t know about any such translation, adding that her client’s royalties "went down dramatically during the trial,” according to Yahoo! News.
“I think he's pretty close to indigent," Bonjean said. "He doesn't have any regular sources of income."
Donnelly called the phrase “indigent” a "stretch" and in turn issued the disgraced singer a $100,000 fine plus a statutory $40,000 human trafficking penalty. A restitution hearing has been scheduled for September.
Sony has currently been withholding paying Kelly royalties, upward of $4.5 million worth, pending civil legal proceedings against him, Geddes told the court. The music company has withheld paying Kelly royalties from his master recordings as the company deals with judgments related to civil legal proceedings against him. They're currently holding on to between $3.5 and $4.5 million worth of royalties for Kelly, but owe $7 million in judgments, Geddes said Wednesday.
Throughout Kelly’s trial, prosecutors detailed how Kelly sexually abused numerous young women and men, some of whom were underage, over a nearly two-decade period. Furthermore, they said he'd led an enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who recruited the victims for him while giving them false hope that he’d help them with their entertainment careers. Kelly was accused of holding multiple women against their will — and treating many like he owned them — at his home for his own sexual gratification.
The singer also faces separate state sex crimes trials in Illinois and Minnesota, and has pleaded not guilty in those cases. Kelly was previously accused of child pornography in Chicago in 2002; he was ultimately acquitted in 2008.
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