R. Kelly’s former manager was convicted Friday for calling in an active-shooter threat to a private Manhattan club that was scheduled to hold a screening of the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” in 2018.
Donnell Russell was convicted on one count of threatening physical harm by interstate communication, but acquitted on a related conspiracy count. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Russell used his home phone in Chicago to call the NeueHouse Madison Square on Dec. 4, 2018 and tell a worker there that someone in the crowd had a gun and was going to “shoot up” the place, the Manhattan federal court jury found.
The members-only club was holding a premiere screening of the documentary that night, as well as a panel discussion with victims of Kelly.
Throughout the three-day trial, prosecutors showed the panel that Russell made repeated phone calls to the theater that day, threatening legal action and claiming the documentary about the disgraced R&B star violated copyright laws.
When those threats failed, Russell disguised his voice and made the sinister threat call.
“The call was short. The defendant was to the point. And he was terrifying. Someone at the event had a gun and was going to shoot up the place,” Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz said in her opening statement Wednesday.
Russell was motivated by money, Pomerantz argued, telling jurors that if the event went on as scheduled it would hurt Kelly’s reputation — and hurt Russell’s “bottom line.”
“He wanted to keep these women quiet and he succeeded. His threat worked,” Pomerantz added.
Russell’s attorney, Michael Freedman, argued the evidence prosecutors had was limited and did not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Russell is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 21.
Kelly, the one-time R&B superstar, was convicted in September 2021 for racketeering and violations of the Mann Act. Prosecutors proved at his trial that, for decades, Kelly ran an organization that allowed him to sexually abuse and traffic girls.
He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June.