On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced charges against three men accused of threatening, intimidating, or bribing women who have accused R&B artist R. Kelly of abuse in an attempt to silence them.
What We Know:
- Michael Williams, Donnell Russell, and Richard Arline Jr. are charged with separately trying to intimidate or influence the testimony of the women named as victims in the New York federal case against the musician, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. “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,” Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement.
- The criminal complaint against Williams alleges that he intimidated and misled one of the victims in an attempt to influence her testimony against Kelly. Williams was also suspected and charged with setting a vehicle on fire outside a home where the alleged victim was staying. In a news release, authorities said Williams additionally conducted internet searches for “the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering and countries that do not have extradition with the United States.” On Tuesday, he was arrested in Florida.
- According to another complaint, Russell, a manager and advisor to Kelly, threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of a woman who sued Kelly, saying he would release the photos if she did not withdraw her civil lawsuit against Kelly seeking damages. Prosecutors also said Russell threatened the mother of the alleged victim through text messages, writing “Pull the plug or you will be exposed”. He is expected to appear in the Eastern District of New York before a judge at a later date.
- A third complaint filed against a longtime friend of the indicted singer, alleges Arline Jr. offered to pay a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating in Kelly’s prosecution. Arline Jr. attempted to persuade the testimony of the alleged victim by trying to bribe her “with intent to influence her testimony as a witness”. On Wednesday, he was arrested in Illinois where he was brought before a federal judge the day before in Chicago.
- Kelly, a Grammy-award winning musician, has denied ever abusing anyone, pleading not guilty to dozens of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York. The charges against him range from sexual assault to heading a racketeering scheme aimed at supplying Kelly with girls. In Minnesota, Kelly has also been charged with two counts of prostitution with a minor. The singer is also accused of having unprotected sex with a girl in 2015 without disclosing he had herpes.
- A defense attorney for Kelly said he had “no involvement whatsoever” in any attempt to silence witnesses. “He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so,” attorney Steve Greenberg said on Twitter.
We just learned of the charging of several so called “associates” of R. Kelly. Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged. He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so. No involvement whatsoever
— Steve Greenberg (@SGcrimlaw) August 12, 2020
The singer is currently being held in federal custody in Chicago while awaiting a federal trial for child pornography and sexual exploitation of children in Illinois. It is unclear whether Kelly’s Brooklyn federal trial will begin in late September as scheduled, due to coronavirus concerns.