S'porean blogger Amos Yee charged in US court with solicitation and possession of child porn

WASHINGTON – Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, 20, was charged with solicitation and possession of child porn in an Illinois court on Friday (Oct 16), according to local media reports.

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.

He allegedly exchanged nude photos and “thousands” of messages with a 14-year-old Texas girl while in Chicago, reported the Chicago Sun-Times daily newspaper.

Yee appeared at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Friday for his bond hearing. His bail was set at US$1 million ($1.36 million) and he has been banned from using the Internet while awaiting trial, it added.

If convicted, Yee’s asylum status could be revoked and he could be deported.

According to the report, prosecutors had obtained messages Yee exchanged between April and July last year which included nude photos he asked for and received from the girl, as well as nude photos of himself that he sent to her.

They said that the girl repeatedly brought up her age, and Yee had told her to remove her age from her WhatsApp profile.

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

The assistant public defender representing Yee described him as an “Internet troll” who says “fantastic things” online. The lawyer argued that comments he made online should be taken with scepticism.

In a Facebook post on Friday, New York-based Singaporean activist Melissa Chen, a former advocate of Yee, appeared to confirm their account.

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She wrote that she had been first alerted to Yee’s alleged activity anonymously more than a year ago, by an individual from the community of “MAP hunters (MAP = Minor-Attracted People)”.

“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,” she wrote.

Ms Chen had assisted Yee in his political asylum application, but later called for him to be deported from the US over his championing of paedophilia.

While living in the US, Yee has posted videos on YouTube promoting paedophilia. His YouTube channel and accounts on other social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have since been shut down.

When contacted on Friday, Ms Sandra Grossman, who was Yee’s pro bono attorney for his asylum application, said she could not comment on her former client due to attorney-client privilege.

Yee is next due in court on Nov 5.

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