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Former manager’s phone threat to New York theater canceled screening of ‘Surviving R. Kelly’: feds

Donnell Russell is accused of making multiple attempts to stop a 2018 screening of the docuseries about Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse.

R. Kelly in June 2019 arriving at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.
R. Kelly in June 2019 arriving at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.
Associated Press

Federal prosecutors say R. Kelly’s former manager called in a gun threat to a New York theater screening a docuseries about the R&B singer’s alleged abuse in 2018.

Donnell Russell, 45, is charged with one count of threatening physical harm and one count of conspiracy to threaten physical harm, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the NeueHouse Madison Square theater in New York planned the premiere screening of “Surviving R. Kelly,” which details Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse of women and girls, according to a complaint. The premiere also was to feature a panel discussion that included some of R. Kelly’s accusers. That day, the feds allege, Russell made multiple attempts to stop the screening, leading up to a call threatening to shoot up the theater.

He allegedly emailed a cease-and-desist letter to the theater and tried contacting New York fire and police officials to stop the screening, the complaint said. Russell eventually called the theater from his landline, according to the feds, saying there was a person at the screening with a gun ready to shoot.

Guests were evacuated, and the event was canceled, according to the complaint, though there was no shooting.

In August 2019, investigators interviewed Russell, and he told them he contacted NeueHouse but denied making a threat, the complaint said. Charges were filed under seal in March, and announced Friday, the day Russell was to appear in federal court in New York.

“By allegedly threatening a shooting at the theater, Russell prevented the screening, which was attended by a number of R. Kelly’s alleged victims,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement issued Friday. “Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable. We are committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting such crimes.”

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