3 men linked to R. Kelly charged for seeking to influence victim testimonies

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Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Three men connected to R. Kelly have been arrested and charged with attempting to influence the testimony of victims in a racketeering case against the R&B singer through harassment, intimidation, bribery and threats, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The prosecution named the defendants as Richard Arline, Jr., 31, of Dolton, Il.; Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago and Michael Williams, 37, of Valdosta, Ga.

The charges were unsealed Tuesday in a federal Brooklyn court.

"The defendants are separately charged with engaging in multiple crimes that 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 Kelly," acting U.S. attorney Seth D. DuCharme said in a statement. "Efforts to illegally influence pending federal cases, whether through threats of violence, intimidation, damage to property or payments to buy a potential witness' silence will not be tolerated."

Steve Greenberg, an attorney for Kelly, denied that their client had anything to do with the alleged attempts to interfere with victims' testimony.

"We just learned of the charging of several so-called associates of R. Kelly," Greenberg tweeted. "Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged. He hasn't attempted to intimidate anyone or encouraged anyone else to do so. No involvement whatsoever."

Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has been surrounded by allegations of sexual impropriety for decades, which came to a head early last year following the airing of Surviving R. Kelly, a docuseries that included interviews with women who said they had been in abusive sexual relationships with the singer.

Last July, Kelly was charged with racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and sexual exploitation of a child by New York prosecutors for recruiting women and girls at his concerts to engage in sexual activity, among other illegal accusations.

Prosecutors on Wednesday said the three men attempted to influence women involved in that case.

"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 revictimizing his accusers," said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh. "These acts not only fly in the face of human decency, they insult the very rule of law.

According to the complaint, Arline, Jr., who is a self-proclaimed long-time friend of Kelly, attempted from January to June to pay a victim cooperating with the prosecution in the racketeering case $500,000 for her silence.

The complaint states that Arline, Jr., has communicated with Kelly since his incarceration.

Arline, Jr., was arrested Wednesday in Dolton, the Justice Department said.

Russell -- who described himself as a manager, advisor and friend to Kelly, threatened a victim in the case via mail, the phone and the Internet to reveal her sexual history and explicit photographs of her if she did not withdraw her civil lawsuit against the singer, prosecutors said.

The complaint states that he attempted to harass and intimidate the victim's mother.

Williams, a relative of a former publicist to Kelly, set fire to a vehicle parked outside a Florida residence of an alleged victim in the Kelly case, prosecutors said, adding that investigators found cell site records, surveillance footage toll records and photographs that show Williams had driven from Georgia to the Florida resident.

"Williams also performed Internet queries about the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering and countries that do not have extradition with the United States," the Justice Department said in a release.

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