Three associates of R. Kelly’s have been arrested for separate schemes to harass, threaten, intimidate and bribe alleged victims in the singer’s case. Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, is awaiting trial on federal sexual abuse and racketeering charges for purported crimes in Chicago and New York.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced on Wednesday charges have been brought against Richard Arline, Jr., Donnell Russell and Michael Williams. Three criminal complaints were unsealed and detail how the men allegedly attempted to influence accusers from testifying. In one instance, prosecutors claim a car was set on fire in order to intimidate a woman.
“The defendants are separately charged with engaging in multiple crimes that were intended to undermine and subvert the integrity of the criminal justice system and victimize the women who have come forward with serious allegations of criminal conduct against the defendant R. Kelly,” acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme stated in the release, obtained by Yahoo Entertainment. “Efforts to illegally influence pending federal cases, whether through threats of violence, intimidation, damage to property, or payments to buy a potential witness’s silence, will not be tolerated.”
Arline is a longtime friend of Kelly’s who prosecutors believe attempted to illegally influence the cooperation and testimony of an alleged victim. The woman contacted law enforcement when she learned of Arline’s plan and authorities were able to record phone calls between the two. Arline apparently offered her $500,000 “to be quiet” and claimed that he had communicated with Kelly while the “Ignition” crooner was incarcerated.
During one intercepted call, Arline allegedly said, “If I had a way to talk to Rob [Kelly], being next to him, and telling him what’s going on, without nobody listening to, no feds, nobody, he gonna pay her… off to be quiet” because “[s]he got too much. She got too much.”
Russell is Kelly’s self-described manager, adviser and friend who is accused of harassing and intimidating an alleged victim (“Jane Doe”) and her mother after the women filed a civil lawsuit against the musician.
“Specifically, Russell threatened to reveal sexually explicit photographs of Jane Doe and to publicly reveal her sexual history if she did not withdraw her lawsuit against Kelly and ‘cease her participation and association with the organizers’ of a ‘negative campaign’ against Kelly,” prosecutors claim.
Using an alias, Russell allegedly created a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies,” a play on the title of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary, and posted screenshots of text messages between Kelly and the woman, which contained sexually explicit photographs.
In June 2020, Williams — a relative of an individual who once served as a publicist for Kelly — allegedly set fire to an SUV parked outside a residence in Florida where one of Kelly’s alleged victims and others were staying. Fire investigators detected an accelerant along the outside perimeter of the residence.
“Cell site records, surveillance footage, toll records and photographs, and Williams’ internet searches for the victim’s address, revealed that Williams had driven from Georgia to the Florida residence. Williams also performed internet queries about the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering, and countries that do not have extradition with the United States,” prosecutors say.
Along with attempting to influence, delay and prevent a victim’s testimony, Williams is also charged with maliciously damaging and destroying a vehicle by means of fire and an explosive.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent-in-charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said in a statement “These crimes shock the conscience.”
“The men charged today allegedly have shown that there is no line they will not cross to help Kelly avoid the consequences of his alleged crimes — even if it means re-victimizing his accusers. These acts not only fly in the face of human decency, they insult the very rule of law. HSI will continue to bring the full force of our investigative powers to pursue those seeking to attack witnesses and pervert the cause of justice. To the victims of these and other crimes: we stand with you. We will meet your bravery with our resolve to keep you safe to tell your story,” Fitzhugh concluded.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea added: “The bribery, intimidation and violence alleged in these complaints reflects a nationwide pattern of criminality that further victimized civilian witnesses in a federal case. Such behavior can never be accepted and I commend the NYPD investigators, federal agents and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in bringing these charges.”
Kelly, 53, faces child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, while in Brooklyn, he faces a separate federal racketeering indictment. The R&B singer has been behind bars for more than a year in Chicago and maintains his innocence in both cases.