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R. Kelly associate pleads guilty to threatening and intimidating Kelly victim

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NEW YORK (CBS/AP) -- A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to stalking and intimidating a woman who had accused R&B singer R. Kelly of abuse, as well as the woman's mother.

Donnell Russell, 47, of Chicago pleaded guilty to interstate stalking in before U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly in federal court in Brooklyn. He faces a maximum of years in prison. Prosecutors said Russell, who had been a manager and adviser to Kelly, threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of a woman who sued Kelly.

"Russell used threats, harassment and intimidation in a deliberate effort to silence one of R. Kelly's victims and prevent her voice from being heard," Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a news release. "When his initial effort failed, he continued his vile campaign by sending threatening messages to Jane Doe and her mother, and publishing explicit photos of the victim on the internet before and after Kelly was indicted. As this prosecution makes clear, the defendant's conduct was not only reprehensible, but it was also criminal and will not be tolerated."

Prosecutors said between November 2018 and February 2020, Russell used the mail, phones, and the internet to harass and intimidate the victim and her mother after the victim sued R. Kelly. Specifically, he threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of the victim and reveal her sexual history unless she withdrew her lawsuit and "cease(d) her participation and association with the organizers" of a "negative campaign" against Kelly, prosecutors said.

In November 2018, Russell also had a letter mailed to the Kelly victim's Brooklyn-based lawyer, which included cropped nude photos of the victim along with the message, "the next two pictures have been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!" prosecutors said.

The following month, Russell – using an alias "Colon Dunn," sent text messages with the same photos to the victim and her mother, saying the photos would be published unless the victim would "pull the plug," prosecutors said.

Russell used the same alias to create a Facebook page called "Surviving Lies" – a play on the title of the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary that aired on "Lifetime" – and he posted screen shots with the messages he exchanged with the Kelly victim, complete with the cropped sexually explicit photos, prosecutors said.

Russell also appeared on YouTube for interviews with two YouTube "vloggers" defending Kelly, and showed the photos there too, prosecutors said.

Russell was arrested along with two other men – Michael Williams and Richard Arline Jr. – in August 2020. Arline, of Dolton, was accused of offering to pay a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating in Kelly's prosecution.

Federal prosecutors said Williams texted the father of a victim and witness, saying, "It might be wise to protect your daughter from heartache she's gonna endure through this and after."

He also traveled to Florida and set fire to a sport-utility vehicle parked outside a residence where one of Kelly's victims was staying, prosecutors said.

Williams was sentenced to eight years in prison in November of last year after pleading guilty to charges including arson. Arline pleaded guilty to bribery in February of this year, according to published reports.

Kelly himself was sentenced last month to 30 years in prison in a federal sex trafficking case out of New York. He is now being held back at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, and is scheduled to go on trial again starting Aug. 15 at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.

The federal charges against Kelly in Chicago accuse him of videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, and paying hush money and intimidating witnesses to cover up his crimes and rig his 2008 child pornography case in Cook County.

Kelly also faces multiple sexual assault and sexual abuse charges in Cook County. The first of those trials has been delayed multiple times due to the pandemic, and has yet to be scheduled.

After he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the New York racketeering case, Kelly was placed on suicide watch while locked up in Brooklyn, prompting a complaint by his defense attorneys who called the move punitive. But prison officials lifted that suicide watch days later, citing a new "clinical assessment."

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