Three R. Kelly associates charged with threatening singer's accusers
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Three associates of the musician R. Kelly have been charged with threatening people who have accused him of sexual abuse.

Donnell Russell, Michael Williams, and Richard Airline Jr. were charged in separate schemes to threaten and bribe R. Kelly's alleged victims, The New York Times reported.

One victim of the alleged threats woke one morning to find their car on fire, the Times reported. The men have been charged in connection to the burning of the car. 

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Russell and Airline are friends with R. Kelly and Williams is the relative of a former publicist for the singer, prosecutors reported.

The criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday did not say whether prosecutors believe R. Kelly authorized the bribes or threats. Still, prosecutors accused the associates of attempting to silence government witnesses by using harassment tactics. The Times reported the federal prosecutors have long suspected R. Kelly of seeking to silence informers. 

The complaint alleged one of his accusers received messages offering money in exchange for her silence, although no money was exchanged.

Another accuser who filed a lawsuit against R. Kelly in 2018 was allegedly blackmailed with the threat to release sexually explicit photographs she previously sent to the singer, the prosecutors added.

The singer was charged last year in a conspiracy to intimidate witnesses and conceal evidence before the trial. He has been in police custody in a Chicago jail since his arrest last year.