Federal authorities have pushed back against R Kelly’s claims he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment, following his sentencing last week.
The disgraced R&B singer was placed on suicide watch on Friday 1 July at the federal detention facility in Brooklyn where he is being held. Last week, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison on racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
His legal team called the decision “cruel and unconstitutional” for individuals like Kelly “who are not suicidal”.
The US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn filed court papers late Saturday 2 July saying Kelly remains on suicide watch “for his own safety” following a psychological assessment.
In the filing, assistant US Attorney Melanie Speight noted that 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," she added. "In the immediate future, he faces another federal criminal trial in Chicago for charges related to child pornography.”
Kelly's attorney Jennifer Bonjean filed a lawsuit Friday alleging prison officials placed him on suicide watch at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center “solely for punitive purposes and because of his status as a high-profile inmate," adding that Kelly has had no thoughts of harming himself.
“Nothing occurred during sentencing that came as a surprise to Mr. Kelly,” Bonjean wrote in the lawsuit.
“While the conditions of suicide watch may be appropriate for individuals who are truly at risk of hurting themselves, “ she added, “They are cruel and unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment for individuals who are not suicidal.”
Kelly, 55, didn’t give a statement and showed no reaction upon hearing his sentence, which also included a $100,000 fine.
Following his conviction in September 2021, Kelly was also placed on suicide watch last year after being found guilty of nine different sex crimes.
Kelly awaits a further trial in Chicago, where he is accused of 13 further sex crimes including producing child pornography.
He’s also charged with conspiring to intimidate victims and conceal evidence. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
He has denied wrongdoing, and 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.
Additional reporting by Associated Press