News July 22, 2022 at 12:07 pm

R. Kelly’s manager on trial over ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ screening threats

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey July 22, 2022 at 12:07 pm

July 22, 2022 at 12:07 pm | News

R. Kelly’s manager, Donnell Russell (left), is facing trial in a Manhattan federal court -- Left Photo: Cook County Sheriff's Office | Right Photo: AP

R. Kelly’s manager is currently on trial after he was accused of calling a theater and claiming that someone was planning to open fire on the crowd that had gathered to watch the screening of a documentary about the singer’s sexual abuse history.

Authorities said the December 2018 call that Donnell Russell made forced the Manhattan theater to cancel the screening of Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” series, The Associated Press reported.

In an address to jurors on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said Russell was in his Chicago home when he made the phone call. “He knew his words would sabotage the event,” she said in a federal court in Manhattan. 

The police, who were immediately contacted in the wake of the phone call, ordered an evacuation. This caused the premiere to be ultimately canceled. Besides the screening, the event was also set to host a live panel featuring several women who appeared in the documentary.

“The defendant wanted to keep the women quiet,” Pomerantz said, adding that Russell’s intention was to save R. Kelly’s profitable music career.

In June, R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was convicted last year on all nine counts against him in a high-profile sex trafficking and racketeering case, Face2Face Africa reported.

But Russell’s attorney, Michael Freedman, told jurors that they would clear his client of the charges if they scrutinized the evidence. Freedman also said that the theater received several phone calls that day and jurors will “have to decide what it all means and what, if anything, it proves about my client.”

Freedman added that a recording of the phone threat was unavailable, and as such, jurors won’t be able to hear the voice of the person behind the call. Russell also said the evidence to implicate Russell in the crime wasn’t sufficient. 

A worker at the theater, Adrian Krasniqi, told the court that he received the call to report the threat less than an hour after a man who identified himself as a member of Kelly’s legal team called and claimed that the screening of the documentary would contravene the copyright to the singer’s name, The Associated Press reported. Krasniqi said the man asked for the documentary to not be screened. 

Pomerantz also said Russell partly implicated himself after he got in touch with a female co-conspirator at the venue. She said Russell sent the woman a text to notify her about the police possibly responding to the scene. The police arrived not too long after. Pomerantz added that Russell told the woman to delete the text, but she did not.

The prosecutor said that phone records that will be presented as evidence will determine that Russell made nine phone calls to the theater on the day the documentary was set to be screened.

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