An R. Kelly crony was sentenced to 20 months behind bars for releasing explicit photos of the disgraced singer’s victim on the internet — but not before he whined that his reputation had taken a hit after his arrest.
Donnell Russell, 47, described his yearlong harassment campaign against the victim and her mother as “bad decisions,” and a mistake, and asked Judge Ann Donnelly to grant him probation.
“I’m not going to say that I didn’t make bad decisions. I did,” he said Thursday in a rambling monologue to the judge, where he described his success as a businessman and music executive, and how he got pulled into R. Kelly’s orbit. “I can’t even Google my name. R. Kelly pops up. I’ve got to live with that for the rest of my life... I got sucked into the whirlwind just like anybody else.”
But Donnelly said his behavior was no mere mistake or lapse of judgment.
“You talk about when someone Googles your name, this is what they found out. Think about when someone Googles your victim, because she had the nerve to challenge R. Kelly,” Judge Donnelly said. “This is an attack on our justice system.”
The victim, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit in May 2018, and six months later Russell sent a letter to her lawyer with cropped photos of her and copies of embarrassing text messages. He wrote that the “pictures ha(d) been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!”
The idea was to get her to drop her lawsuit, but she held fast, so in January 2019, he posted the photos on a Facebook page called “Surviving Lies” — a reference to the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary series — and held the same pictures up during YouTube video interviews a year later.
“This was a campaign of threats and intimidation that lasted for over a year,” Judge Donnelly said Thursday. “This is not a mistake or a lapse in judgment.”
To make matters worse, Russell appeared in a YouTube interview a day after his July guilty plea describing the victim and her mother as “questionable.” In a court filing, prosecutors said he sounded boastful about his harassment campaign.
Russell was also convicted in July in Manhattan Federal Court, for calling in a mass shooting threat to stop the theater premiere “Surviving R. Kelly.” He’s slated to be sentenced in that case next month.
The victim’s mother, who phoned into the sentencing hearing, described the “enormous amount of pandemonium” caused by the shooting threat, adding that her daughter suffered a seizure in the aftermath.
Her family has been subject to continued harassment by R. Kelly fans and by Russell’s “blogger friends,” the woman said.
“He thinks this is a joke,” she said. “What he has done is cause not only (my daughter) but other victims to live a life of fear... This man should not be awarded probation. He should sit in jail and think about his actions.”
Russell, who describes himself as a “consultant” and friend of Kelly, said he met the singer while they were both performing on a subway about 30 years ago. Kelly asked to help him track down why his royalties were vanishing, and he claims he was trying to protect the R & B star from the victim’s civil suit.
“I saw a lawsuit first,” he said. “I didn’t see women first. I saw a payoff of $250,000 for this, a payoff for that.”
Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June on sex trafficking and racketeering charges in Brooklyn Federal Court. A jury found him guilty of running a decades-long sexual abuse operation by using his fame to lure underage girls and keeping them under his thumb through physical and emotional abuse.
Russell is scheduled to surrender himself to custody on Feb. 21.
The judge offered him a parting piece of advice: stop going on YouTube to talk about the case.
“I’m not saying you can’t, but I don’t think it’s a great idea,” she said.