R. Kelly Sues Detention Facility for “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” Under Suicide Watch

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R. Kelly is suing the Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn, where he’s been incarcerated since being sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sex trafficking and racketeering charges, after being placed under suicide watch despite having no thoughts of self-harm.

In the suit, which names the MDC facility and its warden Heriberto Tellez, the disgraced R&B singer says he was wrongfully placed under suicide watch after being sentenced on June 29 as a punishment “solely for punitive purposes” and because he was a “high-profile” inmate.

The filing added that Kelly is being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” at the facility because of his celebrity status and is being kept in a bare cell, cannot shower or shave, is denied utensils to eat, and was made to wear a paper-like smock. Kelly is also subject to 24-7 observation from prison officials, and the conditions of his confinement are causing him mental distress, according to the suit.

“MDC Brooklyn is being run like a gulag,” said Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean in a statement. “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 also referenced Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite recently found guilty of child sex trafficking and other offenses in connection with financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein—who was found dead in prison from an apparent suicide in 2019—as an example of another high-profile individual placed under suicide watch at the same detention center. Maxwell was placed on suicide watch on June 24, four days before being sentenced to 20 years.

Kelly is seeking a financial “award of compensatory damages for all emotional distress, humiliation, pain, and suffering, and other harm in an amount to be determined at trial.” Though compensatory and punitive damages were unspecified, the docket suggests that Kelly is seeking $100 million.

“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,” a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement. “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.”

The 55-year-old singer returns to trial in Chicago to face federal child pornography and obstruction charges on Aug. 1 and may also face felony charges for prostitution with a minor in Minnesota.

Photo: Scott Legato

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