Amos Yee pleads not guilty in US court to child pornography and grooming

Amos Yee pleads not guilty in US court to child pornography and grooming

Amos Yee
Singaporean man Amos Yee has been charged with child pornography and grooming offences in the US. (Photo: Cook County Sheriff's Office)

CHICAGO: Singaporean blogger Amos Yee pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court on Tuesday (Nov 24) to all charges related to his arrest for child pornography, according to court officials.

Yee, who remained on Tuesday in Chicago’s Cook County jail on a US$1 million bond, entered his plea before Judge Carol Howard, nearly three weeks after a grand jury formally indicted him.

In the remote hearing from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Yee was represented at his arraignment by a public defender. He will next appear on Dec 18, court officials said. 

Yee, who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, was arrested by US Marshals on Oct 14 at his apartment in Chicago’s Norwood Park East neighbourhood. 

Police charged him with child pornography and grooming, alleging that he had exchanged nude photos with a 14-year-old Texas girl via WhatsApp, court officials confirmed.

The incidents took place between Feb 1 and Jun 30, 2019, they said. He reportedly exchanged “thousands” of texts.

Prosecutors alleged that their relationship had soured, and the girl had reached out to a group “interested in exposing paedophiles”, and Homeland Security officials were notified, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

In previous hearings, Yee's public defender was also reported to have described him as an “Internet troll” who is “all over the Internet saying fantastic things”. Earlier this month, a judge suggested that Yee wished to take the case to trial. 

Prosecutors said there was no way of knowing how long it would take to reach a trial by jury. 

Yee has not yet been able to post the US$100,000 of his US$1 million bond required in order to free him pending trial. If he did so, he would be placed on electronic monitoring, a court spokeswoman said. 

ASYLUM STATUS

In 2015, Yee was jailed in Singapore for hate speech against Christians, as well as for publishing an obscene image. The next year, Yee was jailed again and fined, this time for hate speech against Christians and Muslims.

He was granted asylum in the US in 2017 by a US immigration court despite opposition from the Department of Homeland Security.

If convicted, Yee could lose his asylum status and face deportation.

Singaporean activist Melissa Chen, who lives in New York and previously advocated for Yee, said in an Oct 16 Facebook post that she was told of the allegations and had alerted US Department of Homeland Security. 

Source: CNA/ec(ac)

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