R. Kelly Manager Allegedly Phoned in Threat to Theater

Donnell Russell accused of stunt that caused screening of documentary to be canceled
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2020 3:37 PM CDT
Ex-Manager Charged With Threat Over R. Kelly Doc
In this June 6, 2019, file photo, singer R. Kelly pleads not guilty to sex-related felonies during a court hearing before Judge Lawrence Flood at Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.   (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

R. Kelly's former manager was charged Friday with calling in a threat to a 2018 screening of Surviving R. Kelly, which examined allegations of sexual abuse against the singer. Donnell Russell faces two counts of threatening physical harm by interstate communication and conspiracy after the filing in New York, where the screening of the Lifetime series was to be held, NPR reports. The theater was evacuated after the call, and the event, which was to include a panel discussion with #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and some of the women who have accused Kelly of abuse, was canceled. "Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable," the prosecutor said in a statement, per Rolling Stone. Bail for Russell, who was Kelly's manager at the time of the screening, was set at $75,000.

Earlier this week, Russell and two other men were charged with trying to intimidate the R&B singer's accusers. The new charges say Russell first sent a fake cease-and-desist letter to the New York theater to try to stop the event. He then made the threat, the complaint says. Agents traced the call to Russell's home in Chicago, it says; Russell was in the city at the time. Officials said Russell also had a Facebook page, "Surviving Lies," on which he posted a defense of Kelly after Surviving R. Kelly was released. "It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse," said William Sweeney, an assistant FBI director. "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." (More R. Kelly stories.)

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