R Kelly on suicide watch ‘for his own safety’ not as a form of punishment, US authorities say
Convicted sex offender R Kelly has been placed on suicide watch due to the “emotional distress” of his current situation as he begins a 30-year prison sentence for sex trafficking, according to US authorities.
The disgraced R&B star has criticised the decision, accusing federal authorities of punishing him due to his “high-profile” status.
Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, will spend three decades in jail after using his fame to sexually abuse young fans.
The 55-year-old was found guilty of racketeering and trafficking following a high-profile trial in New York in September 2021, which came after years of accusations throughout his career.
Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging prison officials placed him on suicide watch at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Centre “solely for punitive purposes and because of his status as a high-profile inmate.”
She claimed the former star has had no thoughts of harming himself, and that “nothing occurred during sentencing that came as a surprise to Mr Kelly.”
Kelly’s lawsuit also said that: “While the conditions of suicide watch may be appropriate for individuals who are truly at risk of hurting themselves, they are cruel and unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment for individuals who are not suicidal.”
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In response, the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers late on Saturday confirming that Kelly remains on suicide watch but challenging his claim that it is a punishment and saying the decision was made “for his own safety” following a psychological assessment.
Court filings say Kelly has failed to explain how being on a suicide watch list would in any way cause him “irreparable mental harm” separate from his general incarceration.
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Assistant US lawyer Melanie Speight wrote: [Kelly’s] “current life circumstances undoubtedly bring emotional distress… he is a convicted sex offender who has been sentenced to spend the next three decades in prison.”
Kelly is also facing another federal criminal trial in Chicago for charges related to child pornography.
Kelly did not give a statement and showed no reaction upon hearing his sentence last month, which also included a $100,000 (£82,500) fine.
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The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling songwriter has denied any wrongdoing and says he plans to appeal his conviction.
The US Bureau of Prisons has been under heightened scrutiny since financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself behind bars in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
In June, Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her part in recruiting young girls for her former boyfriend.