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A reported associate of disgraced musician R. Kelly pleaded guilty this week to setting fire to an SUV that was parked at the home of one of the singer's accusers.
Michael Williams, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of arson in Brooklyn on Monday, taking a plea deal in an ongoing racketeering case involving the singer’s associates. Federal prosecutors dropped a charge of witness tampering as a result of the guilty plea.
Williams is just one of three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer of abuse.
“I drove from my house to Kissimmee, Florida, and deliberately set a car on fire in someone’s driveway,” Williams, who lived in Georgia at the time, told the judge, local station News 6 reported.
The car was being driven by the parents of Kelly’s former girlfriend, 23-year-old Azriel Clary. Her parents, Alice Clary and Angelo Clary, publicly accused Kelly of holding their daughter against her will since she was 17 years old. They were prominently featured in the 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” pleading for their daughter to return home. While she initially defended the singer, Azriel Clary later returned to her family and accused the singer of abuse on social media.
The SUV fire occurred on June 11, just as Clary was gearing up to testify against Kelly in federal court. Alice Clary reported the fire in a panicked 911 call, obtained by News 6.
“We heard a big boom,” she says in the call. “And when my son looked out his window, somebody was running. But they threw something on the car and put it on fire. [...] The car is getting ready to blow up.”
Angelo Clary had rented the SUV, from Enterprise, according to an affidavit.
Alice Clary claimed that a suspect shot at her husband and son as they chased after him.
Later, Azriel Clary speculated to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigator that the fire may be connected to her involvement in a federal case. She was at the home during the arson attack.
Prosecutors accused Williams in the affidavit of setting the fire to "prevent the testimony of Jane Doe in an official proceeding,"
“This is irresponsible to call this an R.Kelly associate. They have never met or spoken. Kelly had NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM OR HIS CRIME,” Kelly’s lawyer Steve Greenberg tweeted on Monday.
News 6 describes Williams as the singer’s former publicist.
Greenberg denied that his client is using his associates to try to scare accusers on Twitter last year.
“He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so,” he wrote.
Williams now faces up to five years of prison. He’s due to be sentenced on Oct. 5.
Two Illinois men with ties to Kelly are also accused of intimidating the singer's accusers. His longtime friend, Richard Arline Jr., 31, has been accused of trying to bribe a woman who allegedly possessed incriminating information against the singer. Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, has been charged with harassing another Kelly accuser after she filed a lawsuit. He allegedly threatened to release nude photographs of the unnamed accuser if she did not halt her litigation.
Kelly is currently behind bars in Brooklyn awaiting his federal trial, in which he faces more than a dozen criminal counts of sex trafficking, racketeering, coercion, and other charges in connection with the abuse of women and girls. He is also accused of producing child pornography and destroying evidence in a separate case in Illinois.
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