R. Kelly has been placed on suicide watch at the federal detention facility in New York where he is being held after he was sentenced this week to 30 years in prison on racketeering and sex trafficking charges, his lawyer said Friday.
But the disgraced R&B singer is not suicidal, attorney Jennifer Bonjean told CNN she believes, adding Kelly had been fearful of being put on suicide watch.
“The irony of putting someone on suicide watch when they’re not suicidal is it actually causes more harm,” Bonjean said.
Kelly’s attorneys later filed a lawsuit and moved for a temporary restraining order. The complaint names the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) of Brooklyn and its leading officials as well as the United States government as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, attorneys for Kelly called the detention center following his sentencing to learn of his status and employees repeatedly hung up on them, “laughed and were highly unprofessional.” CNN has reached out to the US Bureau of Prisons and has attempted to reach the MDC Warden for comment.
Bonjean earlier said she was told by prosecutors who spoke with prison officials Kelly, 55, was placed on suicide watch because he is well-known.
“It’s punishment for being high-profile. And it’s horrifying frankly,” she said. “To put someone under suicide watch under those conditions is cruel and unusual when they don’t need it.”
“MDC-Brooklyn has a policy of punishing high profile inmates by placing them under the harsh conditions of suicide watch even though they are not suicidal,” the lawsuit alleges.
Bonjean is also seeking a temporary restraining order to remove Kelly from confinement.
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 on nine counts, including one charge of racketeering and eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his 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 with orchestrating the 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.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Kelly to more than 25 years behind bars, while his defense attorneys asked for 10 or fewer.