Lawyers for R. Kelly have filed a lawsuit against a Brooklyn prison for placing the convicted sex trafficker on suicide watch days after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Placing high-profile inmates on suicide watch prior to or after sentencing is often standard practice: Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell was similarly placed on suicide watch “without justification” at the same prison before her sentencing this past week.
However, Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean told People that the suicide watch placement at the Metropolitan Detention Center was done for “purely punitive reasons” and that the “cruel and unusual punishment” violates Kelly’s Eighth Amendment rights. As a result, Kelly has suffered from “severe mental distress.”
“MDC Brooklyn is being run like a gulag. My partner and I spoke with Mr. Kelly following his sentencing, he expressed that he was mentally fine and ONLY expressed concern that even though he was NOT suicidal, MDC would place him on suicide watch (as they did following the guilty verdict),” Bonjean said. “We have just sued MDC Brooklyn.”
Inmates on suicide watch are placed in solitary confinement and put under constant surveillance. “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,” Kelly’s lawsuit states. “And of course, they are monitored 24-7 by prison officials. Ironically, individuals on ‘suicide watch’ don’t even receive psychiatric care.”
According to Reuters, Kelly’s lawsuit against MDC Brooklyn seeks $100 million in damages. It’s unclear how long Kelly will remain on suicide watch.
While the BOP could not directly respond to the accusations pertaining to Kelly, a spokesperson said in a statement, “For safety and security reasons, the Bureau of Prisons does not provide information about conditions of confinement or internal security practices for any particular inmate. 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.”
Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of all counts of racketeering and sex trafficking against him at his Brooklyn federal trial last year.
He will next face charges against him in Chicago, including 13 charges of child pornography, enticing a minor into illegal sexual activity, and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, the latter charge tied to Kelly’s previous child pornography trial. Though the Chicago trial was supposed to begin in April 2020, it was delayed first by Covid-19 and then the discovery of a hidden cache of 100 electronic devices belonging to Kelly. The trial is now set to begin Aug. 15.