Three people have been arrested and charged with attempting to harass, threaten, or bribe R. Kelly's alleged abuse victims, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Richard Arline Jr., Donnell Russell, and Michael Williams separately tried to intimidate or influence the testimony of women named as victims in the federal racketeering case in New York against the musician, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, according to the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.
The criminal complaint against Arline Jr., unsealed Tuesday, charges him with attempting to corruptly persuade the testimony of an alleged victim in the case, and trying to mislead and bribe her "with intent to influence her testimony as a witness." Arline Jr. was arrested on Wednesday in Illinois after being brought before a federal judge in Chicago the day before.
According to another complaint, Russell had threatened to release sexually explicit photos of another alleged victim if she did not withdraw her civil lawsuit seeking damages from Kelly. Prosecutors also said Russell, who described himself as Kelly's manager, threatened the alleged victim's mother via text messages. He is expected to appear before a judge in the Eastern District of New York at a later date.
The third criminal complaint against Williams alleges that he intimidated and misled another alleged victim in an attempt to influence or delay her testimony against Kelly. Williams was also charged with setting a vehicle on fire outside a home where the alleged victim was staying. He was arrested Tuesday in Florida.
"These crimes shock the conscience," Peter C. Fitzhugh, Homeland Security Investigations' special agent-in-charge, said in a statement from the US Attorney's Office. "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 racketeering charge Kelly faces in New York accuses him of sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor, and Mann Act violations. His lawyers have argued that the charge was brought in an attempt to circumvent New York's statute of limitations on sexual misconduct.
The singer is currently being held in federal custody in Chicago while awaiting a federal trial for child pornography and sexual exploitation of children. He has also been charged with two counts of prostitution with a minor in Minnesota.