R. Kelly

Feds: Trio Threatened, Tried to Bribe R. Kelly Accusers

In this June 6, 2019, file photo, singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to 11 additional sex-related felonies during a court hearing before Judge Lawrence Flood at Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. An updated federal indictment filed on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Chicago, refers to yet another minor accusing R. Kelly of sexual misconduct, adding to the jailed singer's mounting legal challenges across three states.
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File

Three men connected to R. Kelly have been accused of threatening, intimidating and trying to bribe women who accused the disgraced R&B performer of sexual abuse, including one who federal prosecutors say firebombed a victim's father's car.

According to a complaint filed by U.S. attorneys in Brooklyn, Richard Arline Jr., Donnell Russell and Michael Williams tried to persuade several women involved in Kelly's federal racketeering case.

"These crimes shock the conscience," said Peter Fitzhugh, a special agent-in-charge with Homeland Security Investigations, which worked the case along with the NYPD. "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."

The Grammy-award winning musician has denied ever abusing anyone and has pleaded not guilty to dozens of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

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

All three men charged Wednesday have ties to Kelly. Arline described himself as a longtime friend and Russell was a manager, friend and adviser. Williams was the relative of the singer's onetime publicist.

Prosecutors say Arline offered one accuser $500,000 to "be quiet" earlier this year. She told authorities about the bribery attempt, who then recorded several calls between the pair. In one, Arline allegedly told the victim that he had tried to talk to Kelly about the plan.

Russell meanwhile, was accused of repeatedly harassing another victim and her mother after they filed a civil suit against Kelly. Prosecutors say between November of 2018 and February, he threatened to release sexually explicit photos of her if she didn't drop the suit, and later published them on a Facebook page after the Lifetime documentary "Surviving R. Kelly" aired. He also showed the same images again during a YouTube live vlog in January.

Prosecutors say that on June 11, Williams set fire to an SUV belonging to the father of another accuser. Authorities said beforehand, he searched the internet for information on detonating fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and tampering and countries that don't extradite suspects to the United States.

Attorney information for the men wasn't immediately available.

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