R. Kelly’s manager, Donnell Russell, was convicted on Friday (July 22) of making a false threat that a mass shooting would occur at the Manhattan theater debuting the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary. The 2018 expose revealed the singer and music producer’s sexual abuse of women and girls he enticed and controlled with promises of making them into music stars.
According to WNBC, a jury convicted Russell of threatening physical harm through interstate communication, but exonerated him on a conspiracy count.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz expressed to jurors that the evidence presented of Russell’s guilt was overwhelming. Phone records confirmed that the phone call came from his home in Chicago.
Pomerantz explained the motive behind the act, sharing that Russell was motivated by the need to keep income coming in from Kelly’s career as a Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter.
Defense attorney Michael Freeman argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that Russell was guilty.
“He went and called in a threat to make money from R. Kelly? Where's the evidence of that?” Freeman asked. “Where's the evidence? Where's the proof?”
In closing arguments, the government played a recording of the threatening telephone call to police made by Adrian Krasniqi, who was working at the 25th Street venue at the time. Krasniqi said a deep-voiced man who sounded “like a thug” warned that “someone had a gun and they were going to shoot up the place,” the outlet notes.
Krasniqi took the stand during the one-week trial and shared that he received the threatening call less than an hour after a man who claimed to be part of Kelly’s legal team called and said the documentary would be violating Kelly’s copyright to his name and should not be shown to the public.
An emergency evacuation later occurred at the theater and forced the cancellation of the highly anticipated premiere and panel discussion.