R. Kelly sold some of his music rights for $5 million around the time of his trial, prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors argued the proceeds should be considered when the judge issues a fine.
Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison plus $140,000 in fines, with restitution to be decided later.
R. Kelly secretly has access to millions of dollars from the sale of some of his music royalties and funneled them through a childhood friend around the time of his sex-trafficking trial last year, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Geddes disclosed the claims during the singer’s sentencing hearing in Brooklyn federal court, just before a federal judge handed him a 30-year prison sentence. Kelly was convicted on sex-trafficking charges in September following a six-week trial.
Geddes noted that Kelly, through his R&B music, received revenue from two separate forms of intellectual property rights. One is from his master recordings, which is owned by Sony. The other is the rights to his composition and lyrics, which Kelly personally held until August 2021 — the month his trial began.
Sony 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.
The composition and lyrics rights, however, were sold for $5 million in August. (Prosecutors did not identify who purchased them.) The proceeds, according to prosecutors, were being held by Kelly’s childhood friend Keith Halbert. Halbert also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from royalties from those rights, prosecutors said.
Jennifer Bonjean, Kelly’s attorney, said at Wednesday’s hearing that she was unfamiliar with the transaction and that royalties “went down dramatically during the trial.”
“I am not familiar with him being able to get $5 million,” she said.
Bonjean also argued that the potential for future royalties shouldn’t be considered as Judge Ann Donnelly, who presided over the trial, considered a fine. Many people refuse to play his music since he’s a convicted rapist and sex trafficker, she pointed out. He also struggles to understand the nature of his contracts because he struggles with literacy, she said.
“I think he’s pretty close to indigent,” Bonjean said. “He doesn’t have any regular sources of income.”
Donnelly issued a $100,000 fine plus a statutory $40,000 human trafficking penalty in addition to the 30-year sentence. She also scheduled a restitution hearing for September.
Kelly’s biological sisters, on his father’s side, shook their head as Donnelly ruled on the financial penalties he will face from behind bars.
“I think indigence is probably a stretch,” Donnelly said.
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