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3 friends of R. Kelly charged with bribing and threatening witnesses

One witness was offered $500,000 in exchange for her silence

August 14, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Three friends and employees of the well-known R&B singer R. Kelly were arrested and had criminal complaints unsealed in the Eastern District federal courthouse on Tuesday, charging them with efforts to harass, intimidate, threaten and corruptly influence the victims in the singer’s racketeering case.

Defendants Richard Arline, Jr., a 31-year-old from Dolton, Illinois; Donnell Russell, a 45-year-old from Chicago; and Michael Williams, a 37-year-old from Valdosta, Georgia, were charged in separate complaints involving R. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.

“The defendants are separately charged with engaging in multiple crimes that were intended to undermine and subvert the integrity of the criminal justice system and victimize the women who have come forward with serious allegations of criminal conduct against the defendant R. Kelly,” said acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. “Efforts to illegally influence pending federal cases, whether through threats of violence, intimidation, damage to property or payments to buy a potential witness’s silence, will not be tolerated.”

Williams was charged with threatening and intimidating a witness by allegedly setting fire to an SUV that was parked outside of her house in Florida on June 11, 2020. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and investigators said they found evidence of a fire accelerant at the scene.

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Arline Jr. attempted to persuade the testimony of a victim through bribery. At one point he offered $500,000. The victim then tried to negotiate $2 million, and eventually they tried to work out a deal for a $300,000 bribe for her to stop cooperating with FBI investigators. Arline never actually gave the victim any money, and investigators said it was unclear if that effort was coordinated with R. Kelly.

“So basically with them they’re telling me that they claim you got some s–t. I don’t know what the f–k you might got, some videos or some iPads or whatever you might got, your story,” Arline allegedly said to the witness through text message. “They just want that to disappear.”

Russell was charged with using the mail and a computer to engage in conduct that “attempted to cause and would reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress” to the witness and her mothers. Among other things, Russell allegedly set up a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies” that targeted the victim and another accuser. One post included a photo of the victim’s home address.

“These crimes shock the conscience,” said Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge at Homeland Security Investigations. “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.”

Kelly was charged with racketeering involving predicate racketeering acts related to six individuals, four Mann Act Violations and one forced labor charge. Included in the allegations is that Kelly and members of his inner circle had a group they referred to as “The Enterprise” that promoted his music and recruited women and girls to engage in illegal sex acts with R. Kelly, according to prosecutors.

Kelly is being held in detention at a federal facility in Chicago, but he will be tried in the Eastern District of New York courthouse located in Downtown Brooklyn. If convicted on the top charge, Kelly faces a minimum of 10 years to life in prison.

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