R. Kelly‘s manager was hit with federal charges Friday for allegedly making a threatening phone call to a Manhattan theater that was screening a documentary about the sex-abuse allegations against the R&B star, authorities said.
Donnell Russell, 45, allegedly called the NeueHouse theater on Dec. 4, 2018, and said there was someone in the crowd who was going to “shoot up” the place at the screening of “Surviving R. Kelly” that night, according to a criminal complaint.
“By the time of the threat call, guests had already arrived for the screening,” according to the complaint. “Ultimately, the screening was canceled and guests were evacuated from the scene. No shooting ever occurred.”
After the threat, Russell, R. Kelly and a second employee of the singer worked together to draft a statement about the call that painted him as the victim, prosecutors allege.
“Mr. Kelly is once again being targeted and accused of acts beyond his control. For months, we have watched as his name has been slandered, and women he once cared for deeply, as well as his family, have attempted to assassinate his character for their own financial gain,” the drafted statement read, according to the complaint.
After the unnamed employee sent the statement to Russell, he texted back that R. Kelly liked it but wanted to change the last sentence, prosecutors allege.
Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said, “By allegedly threatening a shooting at the theater, Russell prevented the screening, which was attended by a number of R. Kelly’s alleged victims.
“Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable. We are committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting such crimes,” she added.
The charges come after Russell was one of three R. Kelly associates charged earlier this week for allegedly trying to intimidate and bribe accusers in the singer’s sex-trafficking case — including setting a car on fire outside one person’s home and offering another half a million dollars for her silence.
Russell, along with Richard Arline Jr. and Michael Williams, was charged with trying to harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence victims in Kelly’s racketeering case pending in Brooklyn federal court, officials said.
The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer is charged with more than a dozen criminal counts of sex-trafficking, racketeering, coercion and other raps related to the abuse of six women and girls.
Additional reporting by Rebecca Rosenberg