Three associates of R. Kelly allegedly tried to “intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence” women who have accused the disgraced singer of abuse, including setting fire to a parked car outside one accuser’s house and discussing paying another half a million dollars for her silence, New York federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Richard Arline Jr., 31, Donnell Russell, 45, and Michael Williams, 37, were charged in separate schemes, according to criminal complaints unsealed Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. All three men have been arrested.
“These crimes shock the conscience. The men charged today allegedly have shown that there is no line they will not cross to help Kelly avoid the consequences of his alleged crimes—even if it means re-victimizing his accusers,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said in a statement. “To the victims of these and other crimes: we stand with you. We will meet your bravery with our resolve to keep you safe to tell your story.”
Kelly, 52, is facing several charges in New York for allegedly manipulating, enslaving, and sexually abusing women and girls for almost two decades. Prosecutors allege that in order to keep these women and girls under his control, Kelly also engaged in kidnapping, blackmail, and extortion.
He is also facing a 13-count indictment from federal prosecutors in Chicago, where he is accused of sexually abusing underage girls and conspiring with two former employees to rig his 2008 child-pornography trial in Cook County. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“We just learned of the charging of several so-called ‘associates’ of R. Kelly,” Steve Greenberg, the singer’s lawyer, tweeted on Wednesday. “Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged. He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone or encouraged anyone else to do so. No involvement whatsoever.”
According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast, Williams, the relative of a former publicist for Kelly, is accused of setting fire on June 11, 2020, to a parked SUV outside the Florida home of a woman who had publicly discussed the physical and mental abuse she endured from Kelly during their relationship. The black SUV, leased by the victim’s father, was set on fire around 2:50 a.m. and was “heavily damaged” while four adults and two kids were inside the house.
One of the adults heard the explosion, ran outside the house and “saw an individual fleeing from the scene of the fire, whose arm appeared to be lit on fire,” the complaint states. Fire investigators also found an accelerant spread around most of the perimeter of the house.
Prosecutors allege that surveillance footage, toll records, photographs, and internet searches prove that Williams had driven from his Georgia home to the victim’s home in Florida.
“Williams also performed internet queries about the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering, and countries that do not have extradition with the United States,” prosecutors said.
A criminal complaint for Arline alleges the “self-proclaimed longtime friend of Kelly” attempted to influence the cooperation and testimony of “Jane Doe,” who alleged she had a sexual relationship with Kelly when she was 17. Between January and June this year, he attempted to contact Jane Doe through social media.
Jane Doe contacted law enforcement and continued to communicate with the Arline, 31, under their supervision. In one May 26, 2020 text conversation, Arline said Kelly was trying to get his cousin in contact with Jane Doe because “he wants to pay you for silence.”
According to the complaint, Arline texted “Jane Doe” saying “[Kelly’s cousin] Rich called me and I said [first name of Jane Doe] is done with rob and she don’t want shit from him and won’t sign her name away to the devil.”
Under the direction of law enforcement, Jane Doe questioned Arline about “how much [Kelly] is trying to give me,” which prompted the 31-year-old to set up a three-way call to discuss “a proposal in which Jane Doe would receive $500,000 in exchange for not continuing to cooperate with the government against Kelly.”
In another recorded phone call with an unnamed witness, Arline allegedly said, “If I had a way to talk to Rob [Kelly], being next to him and telling him what’s going on, without nobody listening to, no feds, nobody, he gonna pay her... off to be quiet,” adding she “got too much. She got too much.”
Russell, a “self-described manager, advisor, and friend of Kelly,” is accused of harassing and intimidating another woman and her mother after the pair filed a May 2018 civil lawsuit against Kelly. Prosecutors allege Russell threatened to reveal sexually explicit photographs of the woman and her sexual history if she did not withdraw the lawsuit against Kelly and “cease her participation and association with the organizers” of a “negative campaign” against the singer.
In November 2018, Russell allegedly mailed a letter to the woman’s lawyer with attachments of cropped nude photographs. The letter, which was purportedly written by Kelly, said, “The next two pictures have been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!” A month later, using an alias “Colon Dunn,” Russell allegedly sent a series of text messages to the woman and her mother with the same nude photographs.
“Just a sample. We will seek criminal charges. You’ve been warned,” the text messages said, according to the complaint. Others said, “Publishing soon” and “[T]his is Colon.” On Jan. 3, 2019, Russell allegedly sent a text saying, “Pull the plug or you will be exposed.”
Prosecutors allege that, using another alias, Russell created a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies” to post screenshots of texts between Kelly and the woman. The page, with a name playing on the A&E documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, had texts that contained sexually explicit photos of the woman.