R. Kelly Sues Brooklyn Prison for Placing Him on Suicide Watch - Rolling Stone
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R. Kelly Removed From Suicide Watch After ‘Clinical Assessment’ at Brooklyn Prison

Convicted sex trafficker’s lawyers claimed he was suffering “severe mental distress” after being put in solitary confinement for “purely punitive reasons”

In this file photo, singer R. Kelly is seen at the Daley Center in Chicago for a child support hearing on March 13, 2019.  (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)In this file photo, singer R. Kelly is seen at the Daley Center in Chicago for a child support hearing on March 13, 2019.  (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

R. Kelly

Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

R. Kelly has been removed from suicide watch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, announced Tuesday. The news comes days after lawyers for the convicted sex trafficker filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn prison for placing him on suicide watch.

Following a clinical assessment, Plaintiff Robert Sylvester Kelly, also known as “R. Kelly,” was removed from suicide watch as of this morning, July 5, 2022,” a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained by Rolling Stone states. “As a result, Plaintiff’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is now moot.”

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” violated 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 stated. “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.

The Bureau of Prisons filed a response to the lawsuit Saturday, including a lengthy document that argued for the dismissal of the lawsuit citing previous legal cases — “Congress has delegated the power over the location and conditions of a convicted defendant’s incarceration to BOP,” the memorandum of law stated — as well as a declaration by the staff psychologist who placed Kelly on suicide watch. 

The declaration, obtained by Rolling Stone, stated that an unnamed staff psychologist conducted an assessment on Kelly after the disgraced singer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

“As part of the assessment conducted on June 29, 2022, psychology staff considered several empirically validated factors commonly associated with risk of self-harm and suicide. These factors are broken into three categories: static, dynamic, and protective,” MDC Brooklyn staff psychologist Andrea Reddy said in the declaration. “The staff psychologist, having considered these factors, determined that suicide watch was clinically indicated for the Plaintiff.”

In the days following the sentencing, doctors continued to monitor Kelly to determine “whether suicide watch remains clinically indicated.”

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.”

And the letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday further argued that Kelly’s lawsuit against the prison should now be considered “moot” since he has been taken off suicide watch.

“The lack of jurisdiction on Plaintiff’s motion here is self-evident: because Plaintiff has already been removed from suicide watch, there is nothing more that the Court can do for him with respect to his demand to be removed from suicide watch. When a plaintiff’s claim seeks to compel a federal official to act, and the official has already performed that act, the claim is moot.”

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.

This story was updated on 7/05/2022 to reflect the letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirming R. Kelly was no longer on suicide watch.

In This Article: R. Kelly, R. Kelly Trial

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