The former manager of disgraced pop singer Robert Kelly – aka R. Kelly – has been arrested on charges relating to a forced evacuation of a media screening of documentary series Surviving R. Kelly in 2018. Donnell Russell, 45, received a federal charge earlier this week of conspiracy and threatening physical harm by interstate communication.
According to Variety, Russell made threats of gun violence if the screening of the Lifetime documentary, which chronicles multiple claims of alleged sexual abuse and misconduct by Kelly, was not cancelled. Russell allegedly placed a threatening phone call on December 4, 2018, to Manhattan’s NeueHouse screening room.
The screening was attended by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and several of Kelly’s accusers – Drea Kelly, Kitti Jones, Asante Jones, Faith Rodgers, Lizzette Martinez, Lisa Van Allen and Jerhonda Pace. The women feature in the documentary and were set to speak on a panel at the screening.
It is alleged that early into the screening, two anonymous calls were made to NeueHouse – directly from Russell’s landline in Chicago – to threaten “that there was a person in the theater with a gun prepared to shoot up” the screening.
NeueHouse then notified local authorities who advised the screening should be cancelled and the venue evacuated.
Appearing remotely before a magistrate on Friday (August 14), Russell was granted a US$75,000 bail. If convicted, Russell could face a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
Acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss commented in a statement, “As alleged, Donnell Russell used threats of violence to stop a screening of a docuseries devoted to exploring allegations of sexual abuse against women and minor girls by the recording artist R. Kelly.
“Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable. We are committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting such crimes.”
The 2018 incident was referenced in the docuseries sequel, Surviving R. Kelly Part II. Watch that at the 1:27 mark below:
The charges against Russell come just days after he, along with two other men, Richard Arline Jr. and Michael Williams, were charged with “crimes relating to their efforts to harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence individuals” who have been named as victims of Kelly’s alleged abuse.
Kelly remains imprisoned after pleading not guilty in February 2019 to ten charges of aggravated sexual assault. Other charges brought against since him include sexually exploiting underage girls and coercing them into illegal sexual activity in the states of Illinois, Minnesota and New York.
In May, Kelly pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking in New York, including an accusation that he knowingly spread herpes to two victims.
His trial is due to commence on September 29.