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R. Kelly Is Sentenced To 30 Years In Jail For Sex Abuse

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US District Judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence on Wednesday after hearing from several survivors who attested to how Kelly's abuse harmed their lives [File: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP Photo]

Thirty-one years ago, R. Kelly, a budding R&B artist from Chicago in his mid-20s, was signed to his first major record label. Around the same time, he began having sex with a 15-year-old girl, according to her subsequent lawsuit.

The accusations mounted over the decades. They grew increasingly heinous. They spilled into public view. Still, the singer who became a superstar leaned on his fame to mask the predator under the persona — and to shield himself from consequences.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kelly, 55, could no longer escape the fallout: He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking. As the judge read out his term, he did not react, and outside, his victims expressed deep relief at the decision.

The sentencing that followed a September conviction culminated Mr. Kelly’s staggering downfall, from a chart-topping hitmaker known as the king of R&B to a pariah whose musical legacy has become inextricable from his abuses. His trial exposed harrowing and systematic torment directed by the musician and enabled by those in his orbit.

U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly, who presided over the federal trial in Brooklyn, said in court that “few crimes more serious” than Mr. Kelly’s exist, and that he had manipulated girls and women. “You taught them that love is enslavement and violence,” the judge said, recalling the scenarios he created to wreak primal humiliation on them.

“This case is not about sex. It’s about violence and cruelty and control,” Judge Donnelly said. “You had a system in place that lured young people into your orbit — and then you took over their lives.”

Mr. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said outside the courthouse that she would appeal the sentence. She had sought 10 years. Mr. Kelly was prepared for prison, she said, but “has regrets and is sad.”

Mr. Kelly was among the most successful American musicians of the 1990s and 2000s, as chart-topping hits like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Ignition (Remix)” catapulted him to some of the world’s largest stages.

But as the entertainer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, crafted an image as a sex symbol, he exploited access to young fans and aspiring musicians to fulfill his desires, the government said.

For an hour in court on Wednesday, seven women and one of their fathers delivered wrenching accounts, describing the devastation of their sense of self-worth, and how the trauma continues to touch every facet of their lives.

One woman, known in court only by the pseudonym Jane Doe No. 2, said she had sex with the entertainer in 1999 when she was 17, and said she still often finds herself “sobbing uncontrollably at random times of the day.”

“I was a teenager. And you were a pedophile, ready to ruin another young lady’s life” the woman said. “You made me do things that broke me. I literally wished that I could die because of how you made me feel.”

She had first encountered Mr. Kelly with hopes of helping a friend land an audition, she said, but the singer coerced her into sex. The courtroom grew tense at one point as Mr. Kelly and his lawyer whispered at their table.

“I’m sorry I don’t want to interrupt his conversation,” she interrupted, pausing until the room returned to silence.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole,” the woman continued. “What you did has left a permanent stain on my life that I will never be able to wash away. I’m sure you never think about that.”

After the women told their stories, Mr. Kelly declined to speak. He still faces an Aug. 15 trial in Chicago on federal charges for producing child pornography and luring minors into sex acts, which his lawyer said prompted the decision.

The facade that federal prosecutors said long protected the singer began to crumble in the late 2010s, after years of inaction despite whispers about his abuse throughout the music industry.

The explosion of the #MeToo movement had coincided with a protest campaign against his music, a troubling Lifetime documentary on his treatment of womenand the new accusations of accusers and their families. This time, the scrutiny was too much to evade.

On Wednesday, the women in court said that the moment was a long-awaited catharsis.

“We reclaim our names from beneath the shadow of your inflicted trauma,” said a woman who spoke in court under a pseudonym, but identified herself to reporters as Jovante outside the court. “We are no longer the preyed-upon individuals we once were. We will be able to live again.”

The woman who identified herself as Jovante, center, one of the accusers who spoke at the sentencing hearing in Brooklyn.Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Ms. Bonjean argued in court that the government’s portrayal of Mr. Kelly as a “one-dimensional” predator and “evil monster” was misguided, and that he endured childhood challenges — including his own sexual abuse.

Starting around age 6, she said, the singer was molested, sometimes on a “weekly basis.” Ms. Bonjean said it was not an excuse, but a consideration.

Indeed, the judge considered copious trial evidence in her decision. The government called 45 witnesses, including 11 victims who painstakingly recounted Mr. Kelly’s brutality. Jurors were also confronted with hours of jarring audio and video recordings, including one in which, at the singer’s behest, a woman sullied herself with her own waste.

Other accounts were similarly disquieting. One of two men who testified that they were sexually abused by Mr. Kelly recalled a moment when he was at the singer’s home gym in Illinois. Mr. Kelly snapped his fingers twice, he said, and a “young lady” crawled out from under a boxing ring to perform sex acts on them.

“I will never forget that,” Judge Donnelly said of the story. She added that she was baffled by the hundreds of enablers who surrounded the singer. “I don’t know why all these people turned a blind eye,” said the judge, who also ordered Mr. Kelly to pay a $100,000 fine.

The case, like other high-profile #MeToo era prosecutions, illustrated how powerful people in a fame-besotted age can skirt consequences, even as accusations of sexual misconduct persist for decades. Many people were familiar with similar allegations about the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, the comedian.

Mr. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, argued in court that the government’s portrayal of Mr. Kelly as a “one-dimensional” predator and “evil monster” was misguided. She said she would appeal.Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

The race of Mr. Kelly’s accusers also may have been consequential: Black women have historically been more likely than white women to have abuse accusations distrusted or dismissed.

“There wasn’t a day in my life, up until this moment, that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and brown girls,” Jovante said outside the courthouse. “I stand here, very proud.”

For Mr. Kelly, questions about his encounters with women burst into the public after Vibe magazine reported on his illegal marriage in 1994 to the R&B star Aaliyah, when she was 15 and he was 27. Six years later, The Chicago Sun-Times published an investigation into accusations that the singer was having sex with underage girls.

Through it all, Mr. Kelly’s stardom remained intact, even during a criminal trial in 2008, that centered on an infamous 27-minute tape that appeared to show him having sex with an underage girl. (He was acquitted on all counts after the girl declined to testify at trial.)

The singer performed at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics on the same day Chicago police revealed they were investigating him. Hours after the singer pleaded not guilty to the charges that led to his 2008 trial, he sang alongside children at a church in Chicago.

Through the mid-2010s, he headlined major music festivals while collaborating with stars, from Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, to Jennifer Hudson and Chance the Rapper.

And as Mr. Kelly continues to retain a sizable base of support, one victim’s father, who gave his name as Charles in court on Wednesday, detailed the threats and intense harassment his family has endured.

“I do want to ask you, Mr. Kelly, to look at me, and just think what I might be feeling. Put yourself in my shoes,” Charles pleaded as he turned to face him. “We’re suffering because so many people love you. They hate us.”

Charles told the singer he did not harbor ill will toward him, and encouraged him to seek forgiveness from God.

“But for him to forgive you, you have to admit what you’ve done,” Charles said. “So it’s up to you.”

The singer’s gaze remained fixed on the table in front of him, and never met the man’s eyes.

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Lomé Will, Again, Host WHO’s African Regional Committee Meeting

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Lomé, the Togolese capital, will host the 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African Regional Committee from 22 to 26 August.

This was revealed by the Minister of Health, Public Hygiene, and Universal Access to Health Care, during the Council of Ministers held on August 3, 2022.

“This choice attests to the efforts and progress made by our country, under the leadership of the Head of State, in the field of public health,” the government said. “The Council welcomed this choice and encouraged all ministers to be actively involved for the success of this regional meeting,”it added.

According to the provisional agenda of WHO Africa, the meeting, in hybrid format, will be structured on 5 pillars. It will address issues such as the Regional Strategy for the control of serious non-communicable diseases in primary health care facilities, the framework for strengthening the implementation of the global action plan for mental health, protection against financial risks for universal health coverage in the WHO African Region, a framework for integrated control, elimination and eradication of tropical and vector-borne diseases in the African Region 2022-2030, or the strengthening of the UN agency, for more effective and efficient support to African countries

Togo hosted (via videoconference) the previous session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa.

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South African Minister Accuses West of ‘Bullying’ On Ukraine

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor appear at a joint press conference after meeting together in Pretoria, South Africa, on Aug. 8, 2022.

South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor accused the West of sometimes taking a patronizing and bullying attitude toward Africa, as she hosted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the first leg of his Africa visit. Pandor made it clear that South Africa has different views from the U.S. on Ukraine, China, and Israel and the Palestinians.

At a joint press conference in the South African capital, Blinken stressed he was not on his three-country tour of the continent in order to counter Moscow and Beijing’s growing influence in the region, as has been widely speculated, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited last month.

“Our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone else,” Blinken said.

Blinken spoke, too, about U.S. support of Ukraine, saying Russia’s invasion was an aggression against the entire international order.
South Africa has remained neutral on the conflict with Russia, its partner in the BRICS group of countries, and abstained from any U.N. votes on the matter, though Pandor said the country “abhorred” war and would like to see an end to the conflict.

However, she said the different approaches by the international community to different conflicts sometimes “leads to cynicism about international bodies.” She referenced the plight of the Palestinians.

“Just as much as the people of Ukraine deserve their territory and freedom, the people of Palestine deserve their territory and freedom,” she said, “and we should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine. We’ve not seen an even-handed approach.”

Pandor added that while it didn’t come from Blinken, South Africa had experienced pressure from some in the West to align with its policy on Ukraine. She also appeared to criticize the U.S. bill passed in April, “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act,” which has been seen by some on the continent as a vehicle to punish African countries that have not toed the line on Ukraine.

“From some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying — ‘You choose this or else.’ And the recent legislation passed in the United States of America by the House of Representatives, we found a most unfortunate bill.”

Bob Wekesa, director of the African Center for the Study of the United States, said Pandor’s candid remarks at the press conference showed the closed-door meeting between the U.S. and South African sides “must have been a very difficult one.”

“I think the U.S. is attempting to figure out how to get South Africa on to its side, but South Africa is not coming to the party,” Wekesa said.

Blinken was in Pretoria to launch the new U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, which focuses on areas such as climate change, trade, health and food insecurity.

During his remarks Monday, he also criticized Beijing for its strong reaction to House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Pandor would not comment specifically on Taiwan but did say South Africa did not want to be made party to a conflict between China and the U.S.

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Man Who Killed His 2-Day Old Daughter For Crying Too Much Found Dead In His Prison Cell

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Trigger Warning: This story mentions child abuse and infanticide which may be disturbing to readers.

Newborn babies cry a lot, in fact, that is how they communicate. But, when a two-day-old baby wouldn’t stop crying, an infuriated father punched her in the face, so hard that she died.

Karen Bissett, 21, the child’s mother had left the child with her father, Liam Deane, when she went to get some sleep on July 10, 2017. Since Luna wouldn’t stop crying while Bissett was away, he shook her hard; punching her in the face, and squeezing her body and arms, reports BBC.

Despite suffering grave injuries, the father did nothing. The next day, he informed Luna’s mother that she was struggling to breathe and lied that she fell from the bed while sleeping at night. The two-day-old was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary where she died in intensive care on July 14.

According to a doctor, Luna died as a result of head trauma, which left her with “catastrophic brain injuries.”

When questioned by police, Deane broke down and admitted that he was the one who attacked the infant. During Deane’s trial, prosecutor Michael Smith stated that the infant suffered damage to her brain, body, and face.

Smith said, “He said he was responsible for all of the injuries that she had suffered and he said that Luna had not settled down and he lost control.” The then 22-year-old father was given a life sentence with a minimum of 10 years in prison in October 2017.

But unfortunately, fate had other plans for him. You see, just months after receiving his sentence, Dean was found dead in his prison cell in IMP Leeds on 12 November 2017. Fellow inmate John Westland, who was serving a sentence for rape and grievous bodily harm, was arrested and given a minimum of 19 years in prison, as he was responsible for the murder of the father.

During the trial, judge Rodney Jameson QC told Westland, “You told the jury that you believed Liam Deane was a sex offender, but he was not. He had committed a very serious crime, but had admitted it from the first and was trying to come to terms with what he had done.”

“It is an unfortunate consequence of life in prison than those who are themselves guilty of serious offenses, as you were, will find another inmate to look down on. Given the nature of your own conviction, some might find that to be rank hypocrisy,” said Judge Jameson.

Then, Westland revealed that because of the nature of Deane’s conviction, he was frequently referred to as a “baby killer” around the jail, and he received daily threats and taunts. He also claimed that his cellmate was in debt to other inmates.

During the week-long trial, jurors heard that the convict killed his cellmate with a broken bottle of aftershave and that the victim had shown symptoms of asphyxiation caused by pressure on his head and face.

Even though Deane’s crime of killing his infant daughter was termed as “an appalling crime that tore her family apart” by West Yorkshire Police, they believed that he was entitled to his right of serving his time in prison.

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