R. Kelly’s manager gets a year in prison for theatrical threat

NEW YORK (AP) — R. Kelly’s former manager was sentenced Monday to a year in prison for reporting a shooting threat that stopped a showing of a scathing documentary about the R&B star.

The sentence will not add to the time ex-manager Donnell Russell is already set to serve on another attempt to quash sexual abuse claims against Kelly.

Russell told a federal judge in Manhattan on Monday that he had “made poor judgments” when he briefly collaborated with the Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer.

“I’m not a horrible person,” Russell said.

Russell said he reconnected with Kelly, a fellow Chicagoan he’d met decades earlier, when the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer faced a growing string of allegations that ultimately led to Kelly’s sex trafficking conviction last year and extortion. Russell said he intended to help Kelly with intellectual property matters that he felt could bring the artist money to pay legal bills.

But prosecutors said Russell was also working on something else: trying to suppress the abuse allegations. He attempted to intimidate at least one accuser, threatened to sue over Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” series and eventually called the warning that halted the documentary’s 2018 premiere in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The series highlighted allegations that Kelly had sexually assaulted women and girls. Some of the accusers were scheduled to speak at a panel discussion after the premiere.

The call claimed that someone at the event had a gun and was planning to shoot. The screening was canceled and the theater was evacuated.

“I was glad it ended. I didn’t wonder how it ended,” Russell said in court Monday, adding that he recognizes that people have “a moral obligation” to make sure that the things they are involved in become appropriate.

Prosecutors linked Russell to the episode through phone records and a text message he sent about police possibly arriving at the scene. At trial, his defense argued that there were many calls to the theater that day and there was not enough evidence to prove he had committed a crime.

A jury convicted Russell in July of threatening bodily harm through interstate communications while acquitting him of conspiracy charges.

Days after the verdict, Russell pleaded guilty to a stalking charge involving one of Kelly’s sexual assault accusers. A federal judge in Brooklyn last month sentenced Russell to 20 months in prison for conduct including sending threatening messages to the woman and later posting explicit photos of her online.

Russell, 47, must turn himself in next year to serve his sentence in both cases simultaneously.

At Monday’s sentencing, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said Russell had engaged in “serious criminal conduct” in “a misguided attempt to protect someone who was a prolific abuser.”

Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June on his sex trafficking and racketeering case in Brooklyn federal court.

In September, a federal jury in Chicago convicted him of producing child pornography and enticing girls to have sex, though jurors cleared him of manipulating his 2008 state-level child pornography trial. He will be sentenced on February 23 in that case. .

Kelly also faces state-level charges in Chicago and Minnesota related to sexual misconduct allegations. He pleaded not guilty in Chicago. The singer has yet to be taken to Minnesota’s Hennepin County to answer charges there, but one of his lawyers called the case “beyond absurd” when it was announced.

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