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Three men charged in schemes to harass, bribe alleged victims of R. Kelly

Prosecutors said one of the men is suspected of setting fire to an SUV in Florida.
Image: R Kelly Returns To Court For Hearing On Aggravated Sexual Abuse Charges
R. Kelly leaves the Leighton Criminal Courts Building following a hearing in Chicago on June 26, 2019.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in New York arrested and announced charges against three men "relating to their efforts to harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence individuals named as alleged victims" in the case against R&B singer R. Kelly, according to court documents and a Justice Department news release.

Richard Arline, Jr.; 31, Donnell Russell, 45; and Michael Williams, 37, are all charged in three separate alleged schemes.

Arline Jr., is a self-proclaimed longtime friend of Kelly who wanted to pay one of R. Kelly’s alleged victims $500,000 in exchange for the victim not cooperating with federal authorities, according to the prosecutors. Prosecutors said some of those conversations were recorded on wiretap.

The documents said Arline Jr. said on a wiretapped call: "If I had a way to talk to Rob [Kelly], being next to him, and telling him what’s going on, without nobody listening to, no feds, nobody, he gonna pay her ... off to be quiet" because "[s]he got too much. She got too much."

Prosecutors said Russell — a self-described manager, advisor, and friend to R. Kelly — harassed and attempted to intimidate an alleged victim of R. Kelly.

The criminal complaint said Russell allegedly threatened to reveal sexually explicit photos of the victim if she didn’t withdraw a civil suit filed against the singer.

Prosecutors said Russell posted sexually explicit photos of the woman on a Facebook page he created called "Surviving Lies" — a name that prosecutors said is a play on the title of Lifetime documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly" — and posted screenshots of text messages between Russell and the woman with those images.

Williams, who prosecutors said is a relative of a person who once served as R. Kelly’s publicist, allegedly set fire to an SUV parked at the Florida residence of one of R. Kelly’s alleged victims.

In recent years, the Grammy-winning singer has faced a wave of allegations from women who claim he subjected them to sexual, physical and emotional abuse over decades. The musician, whose real name is Robert Kelly, has consistently denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said the crimes "were intended to undermine and subvert the integrity of the criminal justice system and victimize the women who have come forward with serious allegations of criminal conduct against the defendant R. Kelly."

Peter Fitzhugh, a Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, said "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."

All three have been taken into federal custody over the past two days, a spokesman for the Justice Department said.