Controversial Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, who was charged with child pornography in the United States on Oct 16, was indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday (Nov 4).
Mr Yee is scheduled for arraignment on Nov 18. He is currently detained at Cook County jail in Chicago on a US$1 million bond.
During an arraignment, an accused person is formally advised of the charges against him or her and is asked to enter a plea to the charges.
Judge Charles Beach told Mr Yee on Wednesday at the remote hearing from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, “The grand jury has indicted you on this case,” adding that the “defendant demands trial”.
Mr Yee simply replied “Thank you,” to the judge, according to a report from Channel NewsAsia.
The blogger, who was granted asylum in the US in 2017, was arrested in his apartment in Chicago’s Norwood Park East neighbourhood by US Marshals on Oct 14, after the 20-year-old was found to have allegedly exchanged nude photos and “thousands” of messages with a 14-year-old girl from Texas, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The two allegedly to have exchanged messages between Feb 1 and Jun 30, 2019, via WhatsApp. Prosecutors say they obtained the messages Mr Yee sent including nude photos he requested and received from the girl as well as nude photos of himself that he sent to the minor.
Prosecutors also said that the girl repeatedly brought up her age in the messages. However, Mr Yee reportedly told the teen to remove her age from her profile on WhatsApp. When she contacted a group “interested in exposing pedophiles,” their relationship eventually soured.
It was also at this point that Homeland Security officials were notified.
If the blogger, who was jailed in Singapore in 2015 and 2016 on charges of hate speech against Christians and Muslims, loses his asylum status, he could be up for deportation.
Mr Yee’s YouTube channel was taken down in the US after he advocated for pedophilia. Prosecutors in his case have also said that he ran a pro-pedophile forum on a message board, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
The blogger said in a YouTube video last year “that even if he did sexually abuse a 14-year-old, it does not change that there is nothing immoral about pedophilia,” according to Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy.
Singaporean-born activist Melissa Chen wrote in an Oct 16 Facebook post that she had “been assisting in this manner for a year now, clandestinely” to get the blogger arrested.
Ms Chen, who was once one of Mr Yee’s most avid defenders, wrote, “More than year ago, an individual from the community of ‘MAP hunters’ (MAP = Minor-Attracted People) first flagged his alleged activity to me anonymously on Twitter. I took the allegations seriously, responded and verified the accusations. After speaking with the young victim, I was broken. I vowed to do all I could to get her justice and remove him from society.
We took the case to the Department of Homeland Security who conducted thorough investigations and now it’s in the hands of the Chicago Police. I’ve been assisting in this manner for a year now, clandestinely.”—/TISG
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