Donnell Russell, R. Kelly's former manager, was charged Friday with making a threatening call to a Manhattan theater to prevent the 2018 premiere of. The series details against the singer, who is awaiting trial on dozens of state and federal sexual misconduct charges — .
Russell, 45, was charged with one count of conspiracy to threaten physical harm by interstate communication and one count of threatening physical harm by interstate communication, the Department of Justice said in a press release. Each count carries a maximum of five years in prison.
The criminal complaint alleges that Russell and a co-conspirator made multiple attempts to stop the screening, which was scheduled for December 4, 2018. First, he allegedly drafted an email to an executive at the Lifetime television channel to discourage them from airing the docuseries. Then, he allegedly sent the theater a cease and desist letter. He also allegedly attempted to contact the NYPD and the New York Fire Department.
The complaint alleges that when none of those attempts worked, he called the theater "to threaten that there was a person in the theater with a gun prepared to shoot up the Screening." The employee he spoke with called 911, and the theater canceled the screening and evacuated.
"By allegedly threatening a shooting at the theater, Russell prevented the screening, which was attended by a number of R. Kelly's alleged victims," said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. "Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable."
When interviewed by authorities in August 2019, Russell admitted to sending the cease and desist letters — but he denied making the threatening phone call, according to the complaint.
The complaint includes text messages from Russell's mother that suggest that R. Kelly was not aware of Russell's alleged plan.
"Be humble when (if) you talk to Rob because you made another move without checking with him first. Even though, it was for his benefit, he might not approve of your actions!!!" Russell's mother said in a December 4 text to a phone that is believed to be Russell's.
"My calls were to tell not to mention the woman's name that is assisting you," she said a day later. "Remember, someone in Rob's circle may be a mole, so give her an alias!!!"
Russell and two others were also charged on Wednesday for attempting to intimidate and silence R. Kelly's accusers, The Associated Press reported. In that case, Russell is accused of sending a letter to an accuser's attorney with cropped nude photographs of the woman, and later texting "Pull the plug or you will be exposed."