R. Kelly Friend Pleads Guilty to Offering Victim Hush Money

Richard Arline Jr. offered half a million dollars to stop a woman from telling investigators about her relationship with the jailed R&B star. 

This 2019 file photo shows R&B singer R. Kelly, center, arriving at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago for an arraignment on sex-related felonies. (AP file photo/Amr Alfiky)

BROOKLYN (CN) — A longtime friend of R. Kelly admitted in federal court Tuesday that he offered an unnamed woman money so that she would drop claims that the R&B singer began a sexual relationship with her when she was 17. 

Richard Arline Jr. was indicted in August of last year along with two others from Kelly’s inner circle on charges that they had tried to extort or intimidate victims of an alleged sex ring of women and underage girls that Kelly, 54, is accused of running. 

Prosecutors said Arline, a longtime friend of Kelly’s, offered money to one of these alleged victims — an unnamed woman Kelly is said to have begun a sexual relationship with when she was 17. The woman recorded phone calls last May and June between herself, Arline and another anonymous individual. 

Arline entering his guilty plea in Brooklyn via videoconference Tuesday, admitting that he offered the woman money between May and June 2020.

The recordings catch Arline discussing a proposal to send the woman $500,000 in exchange for no longer cooperating with law enforcement, making clear that he has access to Kelly’s funds.

The woman told Arline she “wouldn’t go for half a million,” and that she would need $1 million and an initial transfer of funds within 24 hours, according to Arline’s indictment.

During one call, Arline mentions claims that the woman has iPads or videos of Kelly that could be used against him, and says: “They just want that to disappear. You know what I’m saying?”

Other intercepted communications have Arline discussing plans to pay a victim “to be quiet,” and explaining that “[s]he got too much. She got too much.” 

Arline admitted Tuesday that he “and another person” made the offer to trade money to keep the electronics away from investigators. 

“I knew what I did was wrong, and I’m sorry,” Arline said at the end of a short statement.

During a pause in proceedings as audio technical glitches were sorted out, a male-sounding voice on the phone line could be heard saying, “send him to Lewisburg,” seemingly in reference to the high-security federal prison in Pennsylvania. “I don’t understand why he’s not going to Lewisburg,” the person continued. 

Arline is set to be sentenced in June. There is no minimum sentence for his federal bribery charge, but the count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. Arline’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Charged along with Arline last August was Kelly’s manager, Donnell Russell, who is said to have threatened to leak photos and information about victims if they didn’t quit cooperating with the government. 

“Pull the plug or you will be exposed,” Russell wrote to an unnamed accuser in January 2019, along with partially cropped nude photos. Prosecutors also allege that Russell sent a letter to a victim’s lawyer and mother with two cropped photographs. 

“Just a sample,” Russell allegedly wrote to the victim and her mother. “We will seek criminal charges. You’ve been warned.” 

Prosecutors say Russell posted the same nude photographs on Facebook and YouTube. 

The criminal complaint for a third Kelly affiliate, Michael Williams, was unsealed at the same time as the complaints against Russell and Arline. Williams allegedly set a rental SUV on fire in June 2020 in front of the Florida home where an unnamed victim was staying, after sending her father threats to prevent her testimony. 

Kelly himself is detained while facing four criminal trials in Brooklyn and Chicago.

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