R. Kelly’s Manager Faces Trial After Calling In a Gun Threat During Documentary Screening

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

A trial for R. Kelly’s manager opened on Tuesday (July 19) after he was charged with derailing a documentary screening about the singer’s sexual abuse. The manager, Donnell Russell, hoped to cancel the film’s showing altogether by calling in a vague threat to the crowded Manhattan theater.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors that Russell made the brief phone call in December 2018 from his Chicago home, claiming that someone with a gun was planning to open fire on the crowd as they were watching Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly series, reports Billboard.

The phone call prompted an emergency call to the police, who then ordered an evacuation of the premiere and the subsequent live panel discussion with several women who were featured in the documentary.

“He knew his words would sabotage the event,” Pomerantz said. “The defendant wanted to keep the women quiet.” She also added that Russell was motivated by the desire to protect the career of the Grammy-winning songwriter.

The trial comes alongside Kelly’s sentencing, which gave the “Ignition” singer 30 years for racketeering and sex trafficking.

Russell’s defense attorney Michael Freedman told jurors that they would exonerate Russell if they studied the evidence. Freedman added that there were a lot of phone calls to the theatre the day of the screening and jurors will “have to decide what it all means and what, if anything, it proves about my client.”

He then added that because there was no recording of the phone threat, there was not enough evidence to prove Russell committed a crime.

A man who worked at the 25th Street venue, Adrian Krasniqi, testified that he received a threatening phone call less than an hour after a man claiming to be part of Kelly’s legal team called to say that the documentary was violating Kelly’s copyright to his name.

He later testified that the man who called in the threat had a similarly deep voice to the earlier caller, and said in a blunt tone “someone had a gun and they were going to shoot up the place.”

(Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)

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