Justice may have moved frustratingly slow in holding R. Kelly accountable for countless allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, but life is coming at several of his alleged enablers fast.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that federal prosecutors have announced charges against three men accused of “threatening and intimidating” women who have come forward with accusations against the singer-producer. The details of the allegations include bribery, blackmail, and arson, and all three men charged have links to Kelly.
Illinois resident and “longtime friend” of Kelly’s, Richard Arline Jr., 31, purportedly offered $500,000 to a victim in exchange for withholding incriminating information. “Manager and adviser” Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, threatened another woman who filed suit against Kelly with the release of “cropped nude photographs” of the victim, sending both a letter to her attorney and a text to her which read: “Pull the plug or you will be exposed.” Russell is also accused of harassing the woman’s mother.
A third man, Michael Williams, 37, of Valdosta, Ga., is accused of setting fire to an SUV parked outside a Florida home where one of Kelly’s victims was known to be staying. Williams is reportedly related to a former publicist of Kelly’s. In a news release obtained by the AP, authorities added the damning detail that he conducted internet searches for “the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering and countries that do not have extradition with the United States.”
“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,” Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement (h/t AP).
Unsurprisingly, Kelly’s camp claims their client—who is currently facing an array of criminal charges in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York—had “no involvement whatsoever” in any witness intimidation. This, despite a wiretap obtained by authorities in which Arline recounts a three-way call with Kelly that has taken place since the entertainer has been in custody. Nevertheless, the singer’s defense attorney Steve Greenberg continues to maintain his innocence, tweeting: “Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged. He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so.”