Three people associated with R. Kelly were arrested on accusations that they attempted to intimidate or pay off victims and witnesses connected with the singer’s upcoming trials.
Richard Arline Jr., Kelly’s former adviser Donnell Russell, and Michael Williams were each charged separately for their roles in the alleged harassment scheme, the Department of Justice’s Eastern District of New York — which is overseeing Kelly’s Brooklyn trial on racketeering charges — announced Wednesday.
“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 DuCharme said in a statement.
“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 was charged with “attempting to corruptly persuade the testimony of an alleged victim in the Kelly case” after a wiretap in the first half of 2020 — while Kelly was behind bars in Chicago — revealed that Arline was prepared to give a payment of $500,000 to an alleged Jane Doe victim in order for her “to be quiet.”
Russell was charged Wednesday with “using the mail, the internet, and cellular telephones to attempt to cause emotional distress to another individual,” the Justice Department said. Russell is also accused of operating a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies” that defended Kelly following the release of the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries.
Williams, a relative of an unnamed Kelly publicist, is accused of “using and attempting to use intimidation and threats against an alleged victim in the Kelly case” as well as “maliciously damaging and destroying a vehicle by means of fire and an explosive”; the latter incident, which took place June 11th, 2020, happened outside the Florida residence of an alleged Kelly victim.
“These crimes shock the conscience,” Peter Fitzhugh, special agent-in-charge at Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Following the arrests Wednesday, Kelly lawyer Steve Greenberg tweeted, “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.”
Both the Covid-delayed Brooklyn federal trial and Chicago federal trial against Kelly are expected to begin later this year.