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The charges were announced today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI. Russell was one of three Kelly associates arrested earlier this week for setting fire to a parked car in an attempt to intimidate a witness who was planning to testify in the federal sexual abuse case against Kelly.
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The singer has been in custody at a Chicago jail since last summer, when he was arrested on charges related to the sexual abuse of minors in Chicago and Brooklyn.
In the latest charges, Russell faces two counts of threatening physical harm by interstate communication and conspiracy to do the same for placing a threatening phone call on December 4, 2018, to Manhattan’s NeueHouse screening room. The threat of gun violence at the venue, the complaint alleges, was an attempt to prevent the screening of the Lifetime docuseries about allegations of Kelly’s sexual abuse of girls and women.
According to the complainr (read it here), Russell, then located in Chicago, at first attempted to stop the screening by contacting an executive at Lifetime, then sent a “cease and desist” letter to the NeueHouse a “cease and desist.” When those attempts failed, he tried contacting various law enforcement agencies “in and around the theater” to disrupt the screening. He then contacted a NeueHouse employee directly, apparently from his own landline in Chicago, “to threaten that there was a person in the theater with a gun prepared to shoot up” the screening.
After receiving the threat, NeueHouse notified authorities, canceled the screening and evacuated the theater.
“As alleged, Donnell Russell used threats of violence to stop a screening of a docuseries devoted to exploring allegations of sexual abuse against women and minor girls by the recording artist R. Kelly,
“By allegedly threatening a shooting at the theater,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, “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.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse. The violence Mr. Russell allegedly threatened succeeded in shutting down one airing of the documentary, but he was unable to silence the women featured in the film.”
With each of the two counts carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison, Russell faces up to 10 years on the charges. He was expected to appear in a Brooklyn courthouse today.
The 2018 screening incident was referenced in the docuseries sequel Surviving R. Kelly Part II. See the clip below at the 1:27 mark.
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