Government prosecutors have defended a decision to place the disgraced R&B singer R Kelly under suicide watch following his sentencing to 30 years in prison on sex trafficking and racketeering charges last week.
In documents filed over the weekend in response to a lawsuit that claimed Kelly, 55, was “placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment even though he was not suicidal”, attorneys for the Brooklyn detention center where the singer is being held said he matched the criteria to be put under supervision.
They said Kelly’s claims should be dismissed because he “fails to show a substantial likelihood of success for relief” because custodial decisions are left up to the discretion of expert prison officials.
Kelly’s “allegations of irreparable harm are entirely conclusory and speculative”, the attorneys said.
On Friday, Kelly’s defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean told CNN that Kelly was fearful of being put on suicide watch. Bonjean has claimed that her client 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.”
“The irony of putting someone on suicide watch when they’re not suicidal is it actually causes more harm,” Bonjean added.
Kelly was convicted last September on nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking law. Prosecutors claimed he used a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification”.
During the five-week trial, jurors heard testimony from witnesses who said they had been sexually and psychologically abused by the singer, as well as evidence that he had married the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old after she believed she was pregnant.
Kelly is also charged with federal child sexual abuse images and obstruction offenses and is due to stand trial in Illinois in August.