Judge orders Universal Music to release R. Kelly’s royalties

In a decisive ruling that stands as a pivotal moment for survivors seeking restitution, Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly has ordered that the remaining royalties from R&B singer R. Kelly’s music catalog be used to cover the $506,950.26 he owes in fines and restitution to his sexual assault victims. According to Vibe, the royalties, currently held by Universal Music Group, are valued at $567,444.19.

The fines and restitution stem from R. Kelly’s conviction in 2022 when he was found guilty of federal racketeering and sexual exploitation of young women. The 56-year-old Grammy-winning artist was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. In a separate but related federal child pornography case, he was sentenced to serve an additional 20 years behind bars. Blavity reports that the 20-year term will run concurrently with his existing 30-year sentence.

Before this recent ruling, Judge Donnelly wanted R. Kelly to give up the $28,000 he had reserved for his prison commissary as a contribution towards paying off his debt. It is crucial to note that Universal Music Group is not the first label to have royalties seized for this purpose. In March, Sony Music was also ordered to release $1.5 million in royalties to cover expenses owed to Heather Williams, who was sexually assaulted by Kelly when she was 16. Williams had previously received a $4 million payment from a settlement agreement in 2019.

The news comes on the heels of a mysterious incident in December, where a new album titled I Admit It was released without the knowledge of Sony Music and R. Kelly’s legal team. The album was quickly removed from platforms, with both the record label and his attorneys claiming ignorance about how the new music was made public.

Kelly’s incarceration is taking place at Butner Federal Prison in North Carolina, as reported by ABC11. Despite boycotts from former fans and the ongoing legal proceedings, his discography continues to generate revenue from streaming platforms. The judge’s recent ruling indicates that these royalties will now be directed towards the survivors, as both a financial and symbolic form of restitution.

As it stands, this legal precedent could serve as an essential marker for other cases where survivors are owed restitution from convicted individuals with entangled financial assets. The judge’s order ensures that the victims will receive the financial restitution they are entitled to, further solidifying the weight of the legal consequences R. Kelly faces for his actions.

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