A man has pleaded guilty to using social media and text messages to threaten a racketeering victim of R. Kelly into keeping silent about the abuse she suffered at the singer’s hands.
Donald Russell, 47, originally from Chicago but being tried in New York, admitted his crimes before a federal court in Brooklyn, for which he faces up to five years in prison when sentenced.
In a campaign of intimidation that lasted from 2018 to 2020, Russell, who claimed to be R. Kelly’s manager and friend, used a combination of digital and analog communication to terrorize the victim, described only as Jane Doe, into withdrawing her civil lawsuit against the singer, who has since been convicted.
“Russell used threats, harassment and intimidation in a deliberate effort to silence one of R. Kelly’s victims and prevent her voice from being heard,” said US attorney for the eastern district of New York Breon Peace, announcing the guilty plea. “When his initial effort failed, he continued his vile campaign by sending threatening messages and publishing explicit photos of the victim on the internet before and after Kelly was indicted.”
The court had heard how Russell sent an SMS to the victim and her mother in January 2019, threatening to expose her if she didn’t cease legal action: “Pull the plug or you’ll be exposed.”
A few days after doing that, he set up a Facebook page under his web alias Colon Dunn with the title Surviving Lies – a twisted reference to the Surviving R. Kelly documentary released by the Lifetime cable channel around the same time. On it he posted screenshots of text messages between Kelly and Doe that contained explicit photos of the victim.
The following year, Russell continued his internet-based campaign of defamation when he appeared in two live-streamed interviews hosted by vloggers in support of R. Kelly.
R. Kelly pleaded guilty before a New York court in September 2021 to eight counts of sex trafficking and one of racketeering, for which he was handed a 30-year jail term. He has claimed that he was sexually abused as a child by a female family member.
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