Three men charged in plots to bribe, threaten alleged victims of R. Kelly

One man allegedly discussed paying a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating with the feds, saying “She got too much.” Another harassed a woman who filed a lawsuit against Kelly, the feds say.

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R. Kelly walks with supporters into the Daley Center in Chicago for a hearing in a child support case in March 2019.

R. Kelly walks with supporters into the Daley Center in Chicago for a hearing in a child support case in March 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

The overtures began in late May, months after a woman who once publicly defended R. Kelly turned on the R&B singer and began to cooperate with federal authorities.

In a text message, the woman was allegedly told, “he wants to pay you for silence.” Then, in a phone call recorded by law enforcement with the woman’s permission, Richard Arline Jr. allegedly offered the woman half a million dollars to stop working with the feds.

“You got some sh— I don’t know what the f--- you might got, some videos or some iPads or whatever you might got, your story,” Arline allegedly said. “They just want that to disappear. You know what I’m saying?”

Now Arline, 31, of Dolton has been charged by federal prosecutors in New York with trying to prevent the woman from testifying there against Kelly. Also charged in separate, but similar, schemes are Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, and Michael Williams, 37, of Georgia. Criminal complaints against all three men, who each have ties to Kelly, were made public Wednesday.

The complaint against Arline said “it remains unclear whether Kelly” or others “implicitly or explicitly authorized Arline, Jr. to negotiate a bribe payment on behalf of Kelly.” Still, the new charges are bad news for the singer who has been locked up in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for more than a year. Though he is due to go to trial in Chicago and Brooklyn this fall, both cases could be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged,” Steve Greenberg, one of Kelly’s lawyers, wrote on Twitter after the charges were unsealed. “He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so. No involvement whatsoever.”

Kelly’s legal team has been trying to get Kelly out of jail for months, pointing largely to the pandemic. But prosecutors have underscored allegations that Kelly obstructed justice in his 2008 Cook County child pornography trial. This week, prosecutors also said a bank account controlled by Kelly received at least $1.2 million last year and, in recorded jail calls, Kelly appeared to direct people to contact a nominee “to receive payments indirectly from Kelly.”

Earlier this year, the feds alleged that a prison staff member helped Kelly, 53, make an unrecorded phone call. Now, they say Kelly called the woman at issue in the Arline complaint under such circumstances. Though that woman has not been identified by federal authorities, the facts in the complaint appear to match those surrounding former Kelly girlfriend Azriel Clary.

Prosecutors say the woman began to cooperate with federal authorities Jan. 8 — Kelly’s birthday — after publicly supporting him in a March 2019 TV interview.

“If I had a way to talk to Rob, being next to him and telling him what’s going on, without nobody listening to, no feds, nobody, he gonna pay her a— off to be quiet,” Arline allegedly said of the woman in one recorded call with another individual. “She got too much. She got too much.”

Clary also claimed this summer to be the victim of an arson attack that appears to be at issue in the complaint against Williams. He is accused of setting fire on June 11 to an SUV parked outside a Florida home where an alleged Kelly victim was staying.

Ahead of the attack, Williams also allegedly made several Internet queries, including “where can i buy a .50 custom machine gun” and “countries that don’t have extradition with the united states,” as well as a search for “fertilizer and diesel fuel” that led him to visit a website titled, “How Do Fertilizer Bombs Work?”

Russell, a manager and adviser to Kelly, is accused of harassing another woman who filed a lawsuit against Kelly. The feds said he also created a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies” — a play on the title of the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” — and posted screenshots of text messages and sexually explicit photographs of the woman there.

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