R Kelly Manager Charged Over Threats to ‘Shoot Up’ NYC Theater Playing ‘Surviving R Kelly’ Doc

Donnell Russell is accused of threatening a theater in New York in December 2018

Last Updated: August 14, 2020 @ 10:33 AM

R. Kelly manager Donnell Russell was charged with two criminal counts connected to a threatening phone call made in 2018 to “shoot up” a New York City theater scheduled to play the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary about the embattled singer.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Russell faces two criminal charges: threatening physical harm by interstate communication and conspiracy to do the same.

He is accused of placing a threatening phone call to a movie theater in Manhattan to prevent a December 2018 screening of a docuseries exploring allegations of R. Kelly’s sexual abuse. The screening, which was set to be attended by some accusers, was canceled. Russell was in Chicago at the time he allegedly contacted a NeueHouse Theater employee directly via a number associated with his home and threatened that there was someone prepared to shoot up the screening, according to the release.

On Friday, he is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang.

Russell was arrested Wednesday along with two other associates of Kelly, Richard Arline, Jr. and Michael Williams. All three are accused of “crimes relating to their efforts to harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence individuals named as alleged victims in the racketeering case against” Kelly, according to a release.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a Friday 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. By allegedly threatening a shooting at the theater, Russell prevented the screening, which was attended by a number of R. Kelly’s alleged victims. 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.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. also gave his own statement Friday: “It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse. 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.  Each and every day, we do everything in our power to make sure victims of sexual abuse have the opportunity to be heard, and will continue to do so regardless of those who allegedly use violence as a means to stop them.”

Attempts to reach Russell’s attorney were not immediately successful.