R. Kelly has been in prison since summer 2019 but, following the judge’s ruling last week that the disgraced R&B singer will remain jailed for the next three decades, Kelly has been put on suicide watch. While this seems like a pretty standard move — especially considering the length of the sentence and the high-profile nature of the case and its defendant — Kelly’s legal team has spoken out. The team has criticized the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and alleged cruel and unusual treatment of their client.
Robert Sylvester Kelly was found guilty in September 2021 on federal charges of racketeering and violations of the Mann Act — an anti-sex-trafficking law. On June 29, he was sentenced by Judge Ann M. Donnelly to 30 years in prison and given strict conditions of release, should the 55-year-old get out of prison in his 80s. R. Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, said her client is not suicidal and that placing him under suicide watch is a violation of his constitutional rights. She said in a statement (per ET):
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or — in this case — cruel and unusual punishment. Jennifer Bonjean said in her complaint (obtained by People) that the conditions of suicide watch qualify as such and that the state of confinement is so harsh that it “can and does cause serious mental harm.” The lawyer’s complaint alleged a number of conditions that inmates on suicide watch can face:
It’s unknown which or if any of these conditions apply to R. Kelly himself, as a representative for the Bureau of Prisons told People that for safety reasons they cannot provide information on the “conditions of confinement or internal security practices for any particular inmate.”
The 30-year sentence came nine months after R.Kelly was found guilty of nine federal sex crimes, following decades of allegations. In 1994, the singer illegally married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah Haughton, who died in 2001. He was arrested in 2002 on 21 counts of child pornography but was ultimately acquitted. In 2017, he faced accusations of brainwashing women, which was followed by a sexual battery lawsuit in 2018. The 2019 Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly (now available to Netflix subscribers) shined a spotlight on the allegations, and Kelly was arrested shortly thereafter.
Aside from his lawyers’ court battle over the suicide watch, the R&B singer’s legal troubles continue. He is set to stand trial in Chicago on federal charges of obstruction and child pornography, and he also faces state charges in Illinois and Minnesota. Given how publicized the former entertainer's legal troubles have been, it's likely that many will continue to keep their eyes peeled as new developments occur.
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Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.