Three men were arrested Tuesday for alleged crimes “relating to their efforts to harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence” accusers in R. Kelly’s Brooklyn Federal Court sex-trafficking case, federal prosecutors said this morning. R. Kelly, full name Robert Sylvester Kelly, faces charges for alleged racketeering and sexual abuse of women and girls, including allegations that he exposed two accusers to herpes without telling them.
One person, Michael Williams, is accused of setting a vehicle on fire in front of an accuser’s residence two months ago. Williams, “together with others, did knowingly and intentionally use intimidation and threaten and attempt to use intimidation … with the intent to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of Jane Doe …,” according to a just-unsealed arrest affidavit.
Just before 3 a.m. on June 11, a black SUV was “set on fire in an apparent arson” in front of the Florida residence where Jane Doe was staying. One of the men in the residence ran outside after hearing an explosion “and saw an individual fleeing from the scene of the fire, whose arm appeared to be lit on fire.”
Investigators found that “an accelerant was present along some or all of the outside perimeter of the residence.” Williams, prosecutors said, “is a family member” of a person identified in court documents as “I-1,” a former R. Kelly publicist.
Richard Arline Jr., a “self-proclaimed longtime friend of Kelly,” was arrested for allegations that he “attempted to illegally influence the cooperation and testimony of an alleged victim in the Kelly case.” The Feds allege that Arline Jr. discussed a plot where one accuser would get money — including a proposed payoff of $500,000 — not to cooperate with prosecutors. In a recorded phone call, Arline Jr. said that he communicated with Kelly while the singer was behind bars, “via a three-way call with another individual.”
Donnell Russell, “a self-described manager, adviser, and friend of Kelly,” allegedly threatened to release “sexually explicit photographs of Jane Doe and to publicly reveal her sexual history if she did not withdraw her lawsuit against Kelly,” the Feds said. Russell, using the alias Colon Dunn, launched a Facebook page named “Surviving Lies” — a reference to Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries — and posted screenshots of texts between Kelly and Jane Doe, which included “sexually explicit” photos of her. Russell also appears on two live YouTube interviews to discuss Kelly’s legal problems — and “again displayed the same sexually explicit photographs of Jane Doe and broadcast them publicly over the internet,” court documents claim.
Asked for comment, Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, told Vulture: “Kelly has nothing to do with this — nothing to do with it at all.” Greenberg also said, adding shortly thereafter, “He’s never reached out to a witness, he’s never tried to intimidate a witness.” Contact information for the three men’s attorneys was not immediately available.
Kelly, who also faces charges in Chicago federal court, has been jailed since his July 2019 arrest. Kelly’s New York trial, which had been rescheduled from this summer to September because of the coronavirus, will likely be delayed again because of COVID-19-related court slowdowns. Greenberg said that there is a status conference next week, where the judge is expected to discuss the trial date.
This is a developing story.
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