NEW YORK (AP) – The trial of manager R. Kelly began Tuesday on charges that he forced the cancellation of…
NEW YORK (AP) — The trial of R. Kelly’s manager began Tuesday on charges that he forced the cancellation of a documentary about the singer’s sexual abuse of women and girls by threatening a packed Manhattan theater.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors that Donnell Russell made a terrifying, brief phone call from his Chicago home to a theater in December 2018, saying someone with a gun planned to shoot a crowd watching Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly.” .
“He knew his words were sabotaging the event,” she said.
The phone call prompted an emergency call to the police, who ordered an evacuation, forcing the cancellation of the premiere, which included a live panel discussion that was set to feature several of the women featured in the documentary.
“The defendant wanted to silence the women,” Pomerantz said in Manhattan federal court. She added that Russell was motivated by a desire to protect his lucrative career as a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling songwriter.
Kelly, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison last month, was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking last year.
Defense attorney Michael Friedman told jurors they would acquit Russell if they reviewed the evidence.
Friedman said there were a lot of phone calls to the theater the day of the screening, and the jury “will have to decide what it all means and what it proves about my client.”
He said there was no recording of the phone threat, so jurors cannot hear the voice that made it. But he added that there was not enough evidence to prove that Russell committed the crime.
Adrian Krasnici, who worked at 25th Street, testified that he received the threatening call less than an hour after a person claiming to be part of Kelly’s legal team called and said the documentary was infringing Kelly should not appear in his name. He said the caller had a low, professional voice.
Krasnichy said the later call consisted of a deep-voiced man with a “thug-like slang tone” saying very seriously and very sharply that “someone had a gun and they were going to shoot this place up.”
On cross-examination, Krasnichy said he believed the caller had a Brooklyn accent, which he was familiar with because he lived in Brooklyn. He said he also thought the caller was outside when he made the threat.
Pomerantz said Russell partially demonstrated his guilt by communicating with a co-writer who was in the theater at the time.
She said Russell texted the woman that the police might be coming to the theater shortly before. And then asked her to delete that text, but she didn’t, the prosecutor said.
Pomerantz said phone records that will be submitted as evidence will show that Russell called the theater nine times on the day of the show.
In a separate case involving Kelly, a fan of the singer pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court to charges of threatening prosecutors during Kelly’s sexual assault trial. Court filings cite a video recording of defendant Christopher Gunn saying, “When Kells goes down, everyone goes down.”
A message was left with Gunn’s attorney seeking comment.
Associated Press writer Tom Hayes contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or distributed.