R. Kelly’s defense attorney asks federal judge in Chicago not to add to star’s decades behind bars

Kelly is set to be sentenced in Chicago on Feb. 23. But the big question is whether the judge adds to the 30-year sentence Kelly is already serving for his racketeering conviction in New York. That sentence is likely to keep Kelly behind bars until his late 70s.

SHARE R. Kelly’s defense attorney asks federal judge in Chicago not to add to star’s decades behind bars
R. Kelly walks into the Daley Center for a hearing in a child support case.

R. Kelly was charged in Cook County with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Federal charges in Illinois and New York followed.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

R. Kelly’s defense attorney asked a federal judge Friday to hand the twice-convicted R&B superstar a sentence that would not add to the decades he is already expected to serve behind bars.

Jennifer Bonjean asked U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to give Kelly, 56, a sentence of around 11 years. But she also asked that the judge fashion the sentence so Kelly would serve that time while also serving his 30-year sentence for a 2021 federal racketeering conviction in New York.

Bonjean argued that last summer’s prosecution of Kelly in Chicago could have been rolled into his case in New York, and she said Kelly should not be unfairly punished because of a “piece-meal prosecution by the federal government.”

The request comes two weeks before Kelly is due to be sentenced Feb. 23. Prosecutors have said he faces between 10 and 90 years in prison as a result of his conviction in September. They are expected to file their sentencing recommendation next week.

The key question at sentencing will be whether Leinenweber adds to Kelly’s prison time. Kelly is already expected to remain behind bars until his late 70s.

Kelly went to trial in Chicago weeks after he was sentenced in New York, and some legal experts said the Chicago case offered “insurance” in the event Kelly’s New York conviction is overturned. In Chicago, a jury convicted Kelly of three counts of producing child pornography and three counts of enticing a minor into criminal sexual activity.

The verdict also brought potential closure to a decades-long saga in Kelly’s hometown. The star witness in the Chicago case was a woman known in court as “Jane.” Now in her late 30s, she has long been at the center of sexual abuse allegations against Kelly — and Kelly’s attorneys recently revealed that she is seeking millions in restitution from the star.

In one of the starker moments in Kelly’s Chicago trial, jurors watched snippets from three videos depicting Kelly’s sexual abuse of Jane.


A woman, using the pseudonym “Jane” and now in her late 30s, testified at the federal trial of R. Kelly at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago.

L.D. Chukman for the Sun-Times

In a 34-page sentencing memo filed early Friday morning, Bonjean argued that federal prosecutors — and society at large — have reserved “a unique, unprecedented contempt for Kelly that is wanting as to his similarly situated white counterparts.”

She pointed out that Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Jerry Lee Lewis and several other musical artists were also accused of abusing underage girls but were not prosecuted.

Meanwhile, Bonjean said Kelly, in the mid-1990s, “was a damaged man in his late 20s with an extraordinarily traumatic childhood that he failed to confront.” She said he was sexually abused as a child by a family member and a family friend, was shot in the arm, and once watched helplessly as a childhood girlfriend drowned in a river.

The federal trial in Chicago revolved largely around conduct that began when Kelly was still grappling with those experiences, Bonjean wrote. Jane met Kelly in the mid-1990s, when she was 12 or 13. She said they were introduced by her aunt.

Jane eventually asked Kelly to be her godfather, but their conversations later turned sexual. Once, in the “wee hours” at Kelly’s studio, she said Kelly groped her on a couch.

Jane said Kelly began to sexually abuse her when she was about 14. It turned to sexual intercourse when she was 15. She told the jury the abuse occurred “innumerable times … like, uncountable.”


R. Kelly’s defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean walks into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago as opening statements were expected to begin.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Chicago jury also convicted Kelly for his abuse of two others who were underage at the time. They were known in court as “Pauline” and “Nia.”

Pauline declared to the jury that she and Kelly “f---ed a lot.” Now in her late 30s, she said Jane introduced her to Kelly when she and Jane were 14. She said her abuse by Kelly turned to sexual intercourse when she was 15 or 16, and she said she participated in numerous threesomes with Kelly and Jane.

Nia, now in her early 40s, said she met Kelly at age 15 in 1996. She said Kelly touched her breasts and masturbated in a hotel room after a concert in Minneapolis, and he once fondled her in a hallway in his Chicago recording studio.

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