R Kelly associates charged with intimidating singer's accusers  

By: AFP      Published: 01:01 AM, 13 Aug, 2020
R Kelly associates charged with intimidating singer's accusers  
In this file photo taken on May 07, 2019, singer R. Kelly leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building after a hearing on sexual abuse charges, in Chicago, Illinois. AFP

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrests of three alleged associates of R. Kelly, saying that they used harassment and threats to try to silence women accusing the disgraced singer of sex crimes.

For more than a year the artist born Robert Sylvester Kelly has been awaiting trial in several states for alleged wrongdoings including sex crimes against minors and child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which range across the states of Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

In filings released Wednesday, prosecutors say three members of the artist's circle -- Richard Arline Jr., Donnell Russell and Michael Williams -- have been engaged in separate bids to silence Kelly's accusers in the New York racketeering case against him through intimidation, harassment and bribery.

They say tactics have included the burning of a car outside a residence where one accuser was staying, threats to release sexually explicit photographs of one woman, and a scheme to compensate one accuser to the tune of $500,000 to influence her testimony.

"These crimes shock the conscience," said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh in a statement. "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 revictimizing his accusers."

Kelly faces federal charges in two separate cases -- in Chicago and in New York -- linked to his alleged sexual abuse of minors. The singer known for hits like "I Believe I Can Fly" has a decades-long history of abuse allegations, especially of underage girls.

The Chicago federal charges say Kelly filmed himself having sex with minors and that he paid potential witnesses in his 2008 trial -- in which he was acquitted -- to ensure their silence.

He also faces bribery charges in New York that are believed to be linked to his marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old. That charge expanded on an earlier New York indictment that includes racketeering, accusing Kelly of systematically recruiting girls for sex while touring and coercing them into sexual activity.

The artist is set for trial first in New York, with jury selection currently slated to being September 29. Restrictions preventing in-person trials due to the coronavirus pandemic will likely see that date postponed.

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