R. Kelly’s Manager Charged With Gun Threat at ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Screening

R. Kelly appears in court in Chicago on March 22, 2019. (Credit: Shutterstock)

R. Kelly’s former manager, Donnell Russell, was charged Friday with allegedly calling in a threat to a New York City theater in 2018, in an attempt to halt a screening of Surviving R. Kelly — the Lifetime docuseries about sexual abuse allegations against the disgraced singer.

Federal prosecutors slapped Russell, 45, with one count of conspiracy to threaten physical harm by interstate communication and one count of threatening physical harm by interstate communication, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York said in a press release.

“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.”

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Russell appeared remotely from Los Angeles before a magistrate judge in Manhattan, according to the Associated Press. He remains free on $75,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison for each count.

Prosecutors said Russell, R. Kelly’s manager at the time, was actually in Chicago when the Surviving R. Kelly screening took place on Dec. 4, 2018. Still, the feds said he admitted to sending the NeueHouse theater in Manhattan a “cease and desist” letter to stop the screening. When that failed, he allegedly used a landline phone at his home in Chicago, to call in a threat saying there was someone in the theater with a gun who was prepared to shoot up the screening.

After the call was placed, a theater employee dialed 911 and the screening was canceled.

“It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse,” said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. “The violence Mr. Russell allegedly threatened succeeded in shutting down one airing of the documentary, but he was unable to silence the women featured in the film.”

The two counts in the case aren’t Russell’s only legal problems.

On Wednesday, Aug. 12, he was one of three men charged with allegedly intimidating R. Kelly’s accusers.

Prosecutors in that case accused Russell of harassing a Kelly victim and her mother, after the unidentified woman filed a lawsuit against the Grammy-winning singer.

Surviving R. Kelly debuted in January 2019. The six-part docuseries addressed claims that the R&B singer had sex with countless underage girls, and alleged that he had a history of picking up teenagers at a high school in Chicago and at shopping malls during his tour stops.

The docuseries was seen by millions of viewers, and led prosecutors in multiple jurisdictions to launch investigations into alleged abuse by the singer.

R. Kelly is currently being held at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) while awaiting trial on child pornography, racketeering and obstruction of justice charges. He faces federal charges in Chicago and Brooklyn, as well as state charges in Minnesota and Illinois.