Is R Kelly suicidal? Disgraced R&B star's lawyers SUE Brooklyn prison for suicide watch 'punishment'
The disgraced singer was sentenced to 30 years in prison for federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges earlier this week
NEW YORK: Robert Sylvester Kelly, 55, better known as R Kelly has been placed on suicide watch after being sentenced to 30 years in prison for federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges earlier this week. Kelly's lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said in a statement to PEOPLE Friday, July 1 that the decision to put her client on suicide watch was for "purely punitive reasons" because he's a "high-profile inmate," and violates his Eighth Amendment rights.
Bonjean believes putting Kelly on suicide watch is fearful. "The irony of putting someone on suicide watch when they're not suicidal is it actually causes more harm," Bonjean told CNN. However, the disgraced R&B singer is suing MDC Brooklyn – the detention center he's currently being held in, claiming that he's not suicidal, and it is a "cruel and unusual punishment," according to court documents, as reported by PEOPLE. "MDC has a policy of placing high profile individuals under the harsh conditions of suicide watch whether they are suicidal or not (this was done recently with Ghislaine Maxwell)," Bonjean said.
Bonjean is also seeking a temporary restraining order to remove Kelly from confinement as suicide watch is a state of confinement so harsh that it "can and does cause serious mental harm" to a non-suicidal inmate, Bonjean argued in the court documents. "Inmates are stripped of their clothing and underwear and dressed in a smock made of material that is akin to the material that moving companies use when wrapping furniture," the complaint alleges, adding that inmates are "typically placed in a single cell without bed rails and offered no items of comfort."
"They cannot shower or shave and are sometimes not even afforded toilet paper. Meals are not provided with utensils, forcing inmates to eat with their hands. They have no ability to consult with loved ones or supportive figures," the complaint claims. "And of course, they are monitored 24-7 by prison officials. Ironically, individuals on 'suicide watch' don't even receive psychiatric care."
A Bureau of Prison representative told PEOPLE they could not comment directly about Kelly's imprisonment. "For safety and security reasons the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not provide information about conditions of confinement or internal security practices for any particular inmate," read the statement.
"The BOP is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public. Humane treatment of the men and women in our custody is a top priority. The BOP does not comment on pending litigation or matters that are the subject of legal proceedings."
Bonjean said she had asked Kelly to email her after he was taken back into the federal facility following his sentencing Wednesday but never got an email from him. She hasn't gotten answers about his status from the detention center until prosecutors requested information from the facility, Bonjean added.
A jury convicted Kelly last September after a six-week trial that testified 45 witnesses in a Brooklyn courtroom on nine counts, including one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law, CNN reported.
Kelly, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Wednesday, June 29. following decades of sexual abuse allegations. During the five-week federal trial in Brooklyn, the witnesses who were allegedly sexually and physically abused by Kelly testified. The court also heard from people involved with disgraced R&B singer's 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was an adult after she believed she'd gotten pregnant. The defense attorneys have asked for a 10 or fewer years of imprisonment sentence to Kelly.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).