Donnell Russell, manager of disgraced singer R. Kelly, has been charged with phoning a New York workspace and threatening a mass shooting unless they cancelled a screening of Surviving R. Kelly.
The docuseries features interviews with girls and women who claim to have been victims of Kelly’s alleged sexual crimes. Multiple people who spoke in the documentary were scheduled to appear at the screening at Manhattan’s NeueHouse. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Russell tried multiple times to get the event cancelled, including sending a cease-and-desist order. When these legal measure failed, Russell allegedly turned to threats. He is accused of placing a December 4th, 2018 phone call to NeueHouse suggesting that an armed individual would open fire at the screening. In the wake of this call, the screening was cancelled.
Now, Russell has been charged with threatening physical harm by interstate communication and conspiracy to do the same. The counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In a statement, acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss said,
“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.”
This isn’t the first time Russell has run afoul of the law on behalf of his employer. Earlier this week, he was one of three R. Kelly associates charged with intimidating and bribing victims. Among other harassing behaviors, prosecutors say Russell threatened to leak nude photographs of a woman suing Kelly. He is one of the main reasons law officials are worried R Kelly’s jury could be subject to blackmail and other threats.
R. Kelly’s Chicago trial, originally scheduled for this April, was postponed until October after feds seized over 100 cell phones, and hard drives. The singer was subsequently charged with additional federal sex crimes, including giving herpes to minors. A judge has denied his request for a prison release amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.