Three associates of R. Kelly charged with harassing and bribing his alleged victims

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R. Kelly has been behind bars in Chicago awaiting federal trial on sexual abuse charges for more than a year. But as recently as this June, prosecutors say his associates have taken drastic and terrifying measures to silence his alleged victims. On Wednesday, three men connected to the disgraced musician, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, were arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn with attempting to intimidate and bribe potential witnesses in the case.

Richard Arline Jr., a friend of Kelly’s, tried to mislead and bribe an alleged victim “with intent to influence her testimony as a witness,” according to the criminal complaint against him, unsealed on Tuesday. He was arrested in Chicago on Wednesday and appeared before a federal judge the day before.

Another of Kelly’s pals, Donnell Russell, threatened to release sexually explicit photos of an alleged victim if she didn’t withdraw a civil lawsuit seeking damages from the musician. Prosecutors said Russell described himself as Kelly’s manager and threatened the woman’s mother via text message. He’s expected to appear before a judge in New York at a later date.

Perhaps most disturbing, a third associate, Michael Williams, a relative of one of Kelly’s former publicists, was charged with committing arson in a bid to intimidate a witness in Florida. The alleged victim awoke in the early hours of June 11 to find a car ablaze in the driveway of the home where she was staying. Williams was arrested in Florida on Tuesday.

“These crimes shock the conscience. The men charged today allegedly have shown that there is no line they will not cross to help Kelly avoid the consequences of his alleged crimes — even if it means re-victimizing his accusers,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said in a statement on Wednesday. “These acts not only fly in the face of human decency, they insult the very rule of law. HSI will continue to bring the full force of our investigative powers to pursue those seeking to attack witnesses and pervert the cause of justice.”

Jury selection for Kelly's trial in New York was slated to begin September 29, but the case is likely to be pushed back unless in-person hearings are able to resume this fall.