BROOKLYN (CN) — Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of three R. Kelly associates on Wednesday, accusing the men of having tried to extort and intimidate the jailed singer’s victims.
“Pull the plug or you will be exposed,” Kelly’s manager and adviser wrote to one unnamed accuser in January 2019, accompanying that text with partially cropped nude photographs he threatened to leak, according to one of three complaints unsealed a day earlier.
R. Kelly himself already faces four separate criminal cases in the Empire State and in Chicago. Brooklyn federal prosecutors have been steadily adding charges since first indicting Kelly here in June 2019.
One superseding indictment earlier this year placed R. Kelly, full name Robert Sylvester Kelly, at the head of a criminal enterprise, saying he directed members of his entourage to recruit a sex ring of young women and underage girls.
Names for Kelly’s alleged victims are always withheld, with updated indictments tending to include a new Jane Doe for already charged conduct, such as creating images of child sexual abuse.
The Eastern District of New York announced today that three of Kelly’s supporters were separately arrested Tuesday in New York, Illinois and Florida on charges of having threatened women in attempts to silence their accusations against the “Trapped in the Closet” singer.
Prosecutors allege Donnell Russell, self-described as Kelly’s manager, adviser and friend, threatened to reveal sexually explicit photographs of a Jane Doe accuser 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 the singer.
According to the indictment, the unnamed victim met Kelly in March 2017 after one his concerts in Texas when she was 19 years old. Kelly’s staff subsequently arranged for her to meet him at Long Island hotel where they had sex following Kelly’s New York concert.
Prosecutors allege that Russell, 45, sent a letter to the victim’s Brooklyn-based lawyer in November 2018. An attachment to the letter included cropped nude photographs of victim with the text: “the next two pictures have been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!”
Russell later employed the alias “Colon Dunn,” prosecutors say, to send a series of text messages to the accuser and her mother in December 2019. Including the same photographs, according to the indictment, Russell wrote: “Just a sample. We will seek criminal charges. You’ve been warned,” as well as “Publishing soon” and “this is Colon.”
Prosecutors allege Russell posted the same nude photographs online on multiple websites including Facebook and YouTube.
Russell’s initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Brooklyn has not yet been scheduled.
In a separate indictment, prosecutors allege that Richard Arline Jr., 31, negotiated with one of Kelly’s accusers through text and Instagram messages between January 9, 2020, and June 2020.
Despite agreeing that she would refuse to cooperate with the government in exchange for half million dollars, the accuser alerted federal prosecutors who authorized electronic wiretaps on Arline.
To date, the unnamed accuser has not received any money from Arline. The indictment calls it unclear whether Kelly or his inner circle had implicitly or explicitly authorized him to negotiate the bribe.
Arline was arrested earlier today in Dolton, Illinois, and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim in Chicago.
A third criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday says Michael Williams, 37, sent threats to the father of an alleged victim in the Kelly case, with intent to prevent her testimony.
“It might be wise for you to protect your daughter from heartache she’s gonna endure through this and after,” one of the messages included in Williams’ indictment says. “She had to live with every stain you guys create publicly.”
Prosecutors also say Williams set a rental SUV ablaze on June 11, 2020, in front of the Florida residence where the unnamed victim was staying at the time.
“These crimes shock the conscience,” Peter C. Fitzhugh, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent-in-charge, 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.”
Kelly’s lawyers were nonplussed Wednesday in response to the unsealed allegations.
“We were surprised as anyone to see these charges, they come totally out of the blue,” Kelly’s co-counsel Mike Leonard said in an email.
“The prosecution in our case has not claimed that Mr. Kelly had any involvement in the purported activities of the three individuals charged,” added Leonard, a partner at Chicago firm Leonard Meyer.
The 53-year old singer’s case in Brooklyn is presided over by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, an Obama appointee.
Jury selection in the trial is set to begin Sept. 29.