Today (June 29), R&B singer R. Kelly received 30 years in prison for sex trafficking and racketeering charges. The musician was convicted last year and stood before a judge hours ago for sentencing. As news continues to spread, users on social media are reacting to the court’s decision. Those who knew Kelly personally are also speaking out.
Jovante Cunningham has known “The Pied Piper” for years. As a former backup dancer for the “Bump n’ Grind” singer, she was exposed to many of the incidents listed throughout his court cases. Today, Cunningham spoke after U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly’s ruling. “Being in a situation as such affords you the ability to be re-victimized over and over again in different areas of your life,” she began. “When you are taught to be quiet and to keep silent about things that should be spoken about openly, you find yourself reclused. And that often affords people the ability to manipulate you.” A reporter from the crowd then asked the former dancer who forced her to keep quiet. “Society. When people are telling you you’re not telling the truth and there’s no support,” she responded while standing at a press podium before moving on.
Cunningham’s story of Kelly’s abuse is not new. She appeared on the docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly” in 2019, where she claimed to have walked in on the “Fiesta” singer having sexual intercourse with a then-underaged Aaliyah. Cunningham said she was around 14 years old when she met Kelly. She admitted to being excited to meet the artist, noting she loved his song “Honey Love.” Cunningham added that she had dreams of being a vocalist. Kelly has been accused of using his status and fame to attract younger girls. Rumors of him promising to further their careers were not uncommon.
His attorney Jennifer Bonjean also spoke with the press after his sentencing. She called his charges “inappropriate” and shared plans to appeal. Bonjean added that his case was composed of “isolated events that happened many years ago.”