R kelly returns to court for hearing on aggravated sexual abuse charges 2
R kelly returns to court for hearing on aggravated sexual abuse charges 2
Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Three R. Kelly Associates Arrested for Threatening and Bribing Accusers

This isn't the first time R. Kelly and his associates have been accused of intimidation.

For the last year, R. Kelly has sat in prison awaiting trial for federal sexual abuse charges. On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced the arrest of three of his associates. Donnell Russell, Michael Williams, and Richard Arline, Jr. were each charged in separate instances of threatening or bribing accusers of the singer.

Last year, federal prosecutors in Chicago charged Kelly with a conspiracy to intimidate witnesses and conceal evidence before his trial. According to a person familiar with the R.Kelly investigation, one of the accusers was offered money for her silence. No money was ultimately exchanged. Another woman, who filed a suit against Kelly in 2018, was threatened with the release of explicit photographs she previously sent to him. On June 11, one potential witness in Kelly's trial woke up and found her vehicle had been set on fire.

Russell and Arline are both friends of R.Kelly, while Williams is the relative of one of Kelly's former publicists. Kelly faces nine counts, including racketeering. The indictment accuses him of leading an operation illegally exploiting, kidnapping, blackmailing, and extorting women and girls for decades.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to provide special protections for jurors in the upcoming trial. Their names and addresses will be kept anonymous.

Jury selection for the New York trial is set to begin on September 29. The date could be postponed if the COVID-19 pandemic prevents in person trials from resuming in federal courthouses.