A former manager for R. Kelly is facing charges for allegedly threatening a shooting at a Manhattan co-working space, as part of a wide-ranging attempt to silence the musician's accusers ahead of his upcoming sexual abuse trial, according to federal prosecutors.
Attorneys for the Southern District of New York unveiled the new set of charges on Friday against Donnell Russell, who was arrested on separate charges this week for allegedly harassing Kelly's alleged victims. Prosecutors claim Russell used threats of violence against an employee at NeueHouse, a co-working space near Madison Square Park that was set to host a screening of the Lifetime docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly" attended by a number of Kelly's accusers.
After sending a cease and desist letter to NeueHouse, Russell contacted an employee claiming "there was a person in the theater with a gun prepared to shoot up the screening," according to the complaint. NeueHouse ultimately cancelled the showing and evacuated the theater.
“It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse," FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. "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."
Russell is one of three men who were arrested on Tuesday for attempting to intimidate or bribe Kelly's witnesses. According to the criminal complaints, one of the accusers was threatened with the release of sexually explicit photographs. Another man — a relative of Kelly's former publicist — allegedly set fire to an SUV belong to one of the accusers.
Kelly has been awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges for more than year. He faces separate federal indictments in both Chicago and New York for charges ranging from sexual exploitation of children to racketeering. For decades, he has withstood reports and allegations of abusing underage girls and holding them in a "cult."
He has pled not guilty to all charges, describing his accusers as "disgruntled groupies."
The disgraced musician was previously tried on more than a dozen counts of child pornography, but was acquitted in 2008. The trial was marred by allegations of witness intimidation and threats of physical violence by "certain enablers."
Attempts to reach Russell's attorneys were not immediately successful.