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R Kelly’s manager charged with making phone threats to cinema

World News | Published:

Donnell Russell was charged with conspiracy and threatening physical harm by interstate communication.

R Kelly

R Kelly’s manager has been arrested on charges that he threatened a shooting at a Manhattan cinema two years ago, forcing an evacuation and the cancellation of the screening of a documentary addressing allegations that the singer sexually abused women and girls.

Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, was charged with conspiracy and threatening physical harm by interstate communication.

He appeared remotely on Friday from Los Angeles before a magistrate judge in Manhattan. He was permitted to remain free on 75,000 dollars (£57,000) bail.

The charge comes on the heels of Russell being charged in Brooklyn federal court earlier this week with harassing a Kelly victim and her mother after the unidentified woman filed a lawsuit against Kelly.

Authorities said Russell sent a letter to the woman’s lawyer with cropped nude photographs of her and later sent her a text warning: “Pull the plug or you will be exposed.”

In the latest case, authorities said threats by Russell in December 2018 forced the cancellation of the screening of Lifetime’s Surviving R Kelly series at the NeueHouse Madison Square as police took precautions, although they determined there was no imminent threat.

Acting US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a release that a number of the Grammy award-winning R&B singer’s accusers were to attend the screening.

“Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable,” she said.

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William F Sweeney Jr, head of New York’s FBI office, said it “defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse”.

Mr Sweeney said Russell succeeded in shutting down one airing of the documentary but failed to silence the women in the film.

“Each and every day, we do everything in our power to make sure victims of sexual abuse have the opportunity to be heard, and will continue to do so regardless of those who allegedly use violence as a means to stop them,” he said.

Kelly remains jailed in Chicago after pleading not guilty to dozens of state and federal sex crime charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

The charges range from sexual assault to leading a racketeering scheme aimed at supplying Kelly with girls. He is also accused of having unprotected sex with a minor in 2015 without disclosing he had herpes.

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