‘You destroyed so many lives’: R Kelly victims give emotional statements

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<span>Photograph: Elizabeth Williams/AP</span>
Photograph: Elizabeth Williams/AP

The victims of R Kelly gave emotional testimony of the impact his crimes had on their lives during the sentencing hearing that saw the US singer given 30 years in prison.

Related: R Kelly sentenced to 30 years on sexual abuse charges

In a series of heart-rending speeches, several women stood up in court, sometimes addressing their abuser, sometimes pausing for breath or holding back tears.

Kelly, 55, was found guilty of racketeering and other counts at a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement, and which saw gruesome accounts of his crimes against young women, girls and boys.

Outrage over his crimes was fueled in part by the TV docuseries Surviving R Kelly, which gave voice to accusers, who wondered if their stories had previously been ignored because they were Black women.

Lizzette Martinez, one of those who appeared in the Lifetime documentary, took the stand and told how Kelly had promised to be a mentor to her when she was just 17 and hoping for a singing career of her own.

Martineez described the abuse she endured, which began two months after they met, and how she still suffered its consequences today. “I am now 45, a mother, and I struggle with mental health.” Addressing the singer directly and using his first name, she said: “Robert, you destroyed so many people’s lives.”

Other victims used just their first names.

Addie fought off tears as she read her impact statement and described meeting the singer at a concert where he sexually assaulted her. “I never knew that going to that concert in September of 1994 was going to change me for ever,” she said.

A woman called Angela spoke in a firm voice and looked straight at Kelly as she described him as a “Pied Piper” figure who preyed on children using his fame and wealth. “With every addition of a new victim, you grew in wickedness,” she said. “You used your fame and power to groom and coach underage boys and girls for your own sexual gratification.”

Angela said her moment in court and seeing him sentenced was about reclaiming the identities of his victims. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were,” she said.

Kelly, for the most part, did not look at the victims or otherwise show much reaction. But during the statement of one identified as Jane Doe No 2 Kelly began speaking to his lawyer as she detailed her experiences of abuse.

“I’m sorry,” she said, putting her hand up as she looked toward Kelly. “I don’t want to interrupt his conversation.” She added: “I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.”

Another women, called Faith, spoke with her father at her side.“I hope you forgive yourself. I forgive myself,” she said to Kelly. Her father comforted her as she broke down in tears and then he spoke to the singer directly.

“I didn’t come here to bash Mr Kelly,” he said. “I do want to ask you, Mr Kelly, to look at me, man to man, father to father. Put yourself in my shoes.”

Kelly showed no reaction and did not look at him.

Associated Press contributed to this report

• This article was amended on 30 June 2022 to correct the spelling of the name Lizzette Martinez.