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Man who described himself as R. Kelly's manager pleads guilty to stalking victim

Donnell Russell pleaded guilty a week after a jury convicted him for a movie theater threat. An attorney for Kelly denied Russell was ever the singer's manager or adviser.
Image: Donnell Russell
Donnell Russell leaves federal court in New York on July 20.Mary Altaffer / AP

A Chicago man who described himself as a manager and adviser to R. Kelly pleaded guilty Tuesday to stalking one of the victims of the imprisoned singer, federal prosecutors in New York City said.

Donnell Russell pleaded guilty to one count of interstate stalking, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said in a statement.

Kelly, known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,” is serving a 30-year prison sentence after he was found guilty on all counts in a sex-trafficking trial last year.

Starting in 2018, Russell tried to intimidate one of the victims in that criminal case, who had also sued Kelly, prosecutors said.

Russell threatened to expose sexually explicit photos of the victim if she didn’t drop the lawsuit, and he later did show the photos on a Facebook page and in livestreamed video interviews, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The stalking charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The U.S. attorney’s office statement said Russell is a self-described manager, adviser and friend to the singer. An attorney for Kelly denied that Russell ever had such a role.

“Don Russell was never Mr. Kelly’s manager or advisor, and he is certainly is no friend to Mr. Kelly,” Kelly’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said in an email Tuesday night.

Attorneys listed as representing Russell didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

On Friday, a jury convicted Russell in a separate federal case that alleged he phoned in a threat to a Manhattan movie theater that planned to screen the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series in late 2018, court records show.

The caller said someone had a gun and was going to shoot up the theater, and it was evacuated. The documentary series premiered on Lifetime in January 2019.

Kelly, 55, had long been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse. He was indicted in 2019 and sentenced in June. His trial centered on the allegations of six people.

Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has denied the allegations. He was convicted of racketeering and violating the Mann Act, a law that bans transporting people across state lines for prostitution or criminal sexual activity.