Amos Yee indicted on child porn charges by Chicago court

Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, 20, was indicted by a grand jury at an Illinois court in the US on Wednesday (Oct 4) and formally charged with solicitation and possession of child pornography.

He will next appear on Wednesday (Nov 18) for an arraignment – a court proceeding where he will be formally advised of the charges against him, and asked to enter a plea to these charges.

Yee appeared at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse before Judge Charles Beach.

He was represented by a public defender assigned to him by the Illinois courts.

Yee, who was jailed twice in Singapore, in 2015 and 2016, for wounding religious feelings, was granted asylum in the United States in 2017 and has been living in Chicago since then.

Yee allegedly exchanged nude photos and thousands of messages with a 14-year-old Texas girl while in Chicago.

The court heard during Yee’s bail hearing on Oct 16 that he had requested nude photos from the girl in his exchanges with her between April and July last year. He had also sent nude pictures of himself to the girl.

His bail was set at US$1 million (S$1.36 million) and he was banned from using the Internet while awaiting trial.

The Chicago Sun-Times daily newspaper reported that the girl had repeatedly brought up her age in messages with Yee on WhatsApp, the messaging platform by which they communicated.

Yee then allegedly instructed her to remove her age from her profile on WhatsApp.

After their relationship soured, the girl reached out to a group called “interested in exposing paedophiles” and Homeland Security officials were notified, said the report, citing prosecutors.

If convicted of these child pornography charges, Yee’s asylum status could be revoked and he could be deported.

Yee’s online postings landed him in trouble in Singapore five years ago. Then 16, Yee uploaded an obscene image and posted an expletive-laden video intending to hurt the feelings of Christians.

He was remanded for more than 50 days, including two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric examinations.

While out on bail, he repeatedly breached bail conditions and refused to speak to a probation officer.

He was later convicted in May 2015 of harassment and insulting a religious group over comments he made about Christians and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew soon after Mr Lee’s death.

Ahead of his sentencing, 77 individuals signed an open letter in July 2015 where they urged the state to “discharge its prosecutorial function with caution, sensitivity and generosity”. Yee was eventually sentenced to four weeks’ jail.

In 2016, he was charged again with hate speech, having deliberately posted comments in online videos and blog posts that were derogatory of Christianity and Islam. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and fined $2,000.

In December that year, Yee left for the US a day before he was to report for a medical examination ahead of enlistment into National Service.

When he arrived in Chicago, he told the US authorities he was seeking political asylum and an Immigration Court judge in Illinois granted him asylum in March 2017.

Yee’s accounts were later banned from YouTube, WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter in 2018, for pro-paedophilia messages posted online.

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