It looks like the former manager and friend of the Pied Predator of R&B will be joining his disgraced associate in spending time behind bars.
R. Kelly’s one-time manager, Donnell Russell, was sentenced to a year in federal prison Monday (Dec. 19) for calling in a shooting in order to halt Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary from premiering in New York in 2018.
According to the Associated Press, Russell admitted to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe that he had “made bad judgments” while working with the convicted sex trafficker whose entire adult life and career appears to be a string of bad (and abusive and predatory and gross) judgments.
Russell said he reconnected with Kelly, a fellow Chicagoan he’d met decades earlier, as the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer was facing a growing series of accusations that eventually fueled Kelly’s sex trafficking and racketeering conviction last year. Russell said he set out to help Kelly with intellectual property matters that he thought could yield the performer money to pay legal bills.
But prosecutors said Russell also worked on something else: trying to suppress the abuse allegations. He tried to intimidate at least one accuser, threatened to sue over Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” series and eventually phoned in the warning that shut down the documentary’s 2018 Manhattan premiere, according to prosecutors.
The phone call claimed that someone at the event had a gun and intended to fire. The screening was canceled and the theater evacuated.
Imagine being such a dedicated protector of an abuser of Black women and girls that you’re willing to call in a terrorist threat in order to shut down a film premier where the voices of numerous alleged victims will be heard.
Gardephe said during sentencing that Russell had engaged in “serious criminal conduct” in “a misguided attempt to protect someone who was a prolific abuser.” (Sounds like the kind of thing one should spend more than a year in lockup for, but OK.)
Russell was convicted in July of threatening physical harm through interstate communication. Days later, he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of interstate stalking involving another of Kelly’s accusers. For that, a Brooklyn judge sentenced him to 20 months in prison. Russell is due to turn himself in next year and will serve both prison sentences concurrently.