R. Kelly placed on suicide watch after being sentenced to 30 years in prison, lawyer says
R. Kelly has been placed on suicide watch at the federal detention center in New York where he is being held after being sentenced this week to 30 years in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking, his lawyer said on Friday.
But the disgraced R&B singer is not suicidal, attorney Jennifer Bonjean told CNN, adding that Kelly had feared being placed under surveillance.
« The irony of putting someone on suicide watch when they’re not suicidal is that it actually causes more harm, » Bonjean said.
Kelly’s attorneys then filed a lawsuit and requested a temporary restraining order. The complaint names the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn and its principal officials and the United States government as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, Kelly’s attorneys called the detention center after his sentencing to find out about his status, and the employees repeatedly hung up on them, « laughed and were very unprofessional. » CNN contacted the US Bureau of Prisons and attempted to contact the MDC director for comment.
Bonjean said earlier that prosecutors who spoke to prison officials told him Kelly, 55, was placed on suicide watch because he was well known.
« It’s a punishment for being very publicized. And it’s frankly awful,” she said. « Putting someone on suicide watch under these conditions is cruel and unusual when they don’t need it. »
“It is the policy of MDC-Brooklyn to punish high-level inmates by placing them on harsh suicide watch even if they are not suicidal,” the lawsuit alleges.
Bonjean is also seeking a temporary restraining order to remove Kelly from solitary confinement.
Bonjean said she asked Kelly to email her after he returned to the federal facility from his sentencing on Wednesday, but never received an email from him. She did not get answers about her status from the detention center until prosecutors requested information from the facility, Bonjean added.
A jury convicted Kelly last September on nine counts, including one racketeering charge and eight counts of violating Mann’s Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using her celebrity status and a « network of people at her disposal to target girls, boys and young women for her own sexual gratification. »
The five-week federal trial in Brooklyn included testimony from witnesses who said they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The court also heard from people involved in orchestrating the disgraced R&B singer’s 1994 marriage to late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 and an adult after he believed she had become pregnant.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly to more than 25 years behind bars, while his defense attorneys had asked for 10 or less.