Artist News

R Kelly’s manager charged with making documentary premiere gun threat

By | Published on Monday 17 August 2020

R Kelly

R Kelly’s manager Donnell Russell has been charged with threatening to open fire on a premiere screening of the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary in New York in 2018. The threat caused the event to be cancelled at the last minute. Russell is also one of three men last week charged with attempting to intimidate witnesses in the musician’s pending sexual abuse trials.

The screening at New York’s NeueHouse Madison Square complex – attended by several of Kelly’s accusers – was evacuated in December 2018 after someone called the police, fire department, New York City information service and the venue itself saying that they were going to “shoot up the place”. Although police found no immediate danger, they still called a halt to the event.

In a statement, the head of New York’s FBI office, 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”.

It is alleged that prior to calling in the threat of violence, Russell also attempted to stop the event by posing as an attorney emailing a cease-and-desist notice to the venue.

Prosecutors also say that, after successfully shutting down the screening, Russell sent a text message to an unnamed person telling them to delete other messages relating to the threat. A recording was also apparently found in Russell’s iCloud account in which the same person remarks that Kelly himself knew nothing of the plans to shut down the screening.

Despite the premiere screening not going ahead, the documentary was, of course, aired on US TV in January 2019, prompting new investigations into the many abuse accusations made against Kelly. As a result, he is currently being held without bail, ahead of three trials in separate US states with decades in prison ahead of him if he is found guilty.

Last week, Russell and two other men – Richard Arline Jr and Michael Williams – were charged with attempting to bribe or intimidate a number of witnesses expected to give evidence against the musician as part of those trials.

One of the key reasons Kelly is being held in custody before his court hearings is because of fears that he would otherwise attempt to tamper with witnesses – due to evidence that he did so in his previous abuse trial in 2008. However, last week his attorney, Steven Greenberg, insisted that Kelly knew nothing of any plot to influence his accusers.

“Kelly has nothing to do with this – nothing to do with it at all”, he told Vulture. “He’s never reached out to a witness, he’s never tried to intimidate a witness”.