Man convicted of witness intimidation in R. Kelly trial sentenced to eight years
The former Kelly associate pled guilty to arson after burning a vehicle in front of the home of a witness in Kelly's trial
Michael Williams, a former R. Kelly associate who was convicted of intimidating a witness in the disgraced singer’s trial, has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Williams had been charged after burning the witness’ vehicle, as reported by the BBC.
The witness, Azriel Clary, is one of Kelly’s ex-girlfriends, who testified in his New York City trial on racketeering and sex trafficking. Clary originally defended Kelly during an infamous interview with Gayle King, but eventually came forward to accuse Kelly of sexually assaulting her as a minor.
On June 11, 2020, an SUV that was rented by Clary’s father was set on fire in front of the family’s Kissimmee, Florida home, as previously reported by theGrio.
The investigation uncovered that a witness saw “an individual fleeing from the scene whose arm appeared to be lit on fire.”
In addition, Williams reportedly used his cellphone to search for Clary’s address hours before the fire, and Googled the phrases, “How do fertilizer bombs work?” and “case law for tampering with a witness.”
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Williams’ search history also indicated that he looked up “the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering, and countries that do not have extradition agreements with the United States.”
Williams was also recorded on toll plaza video cameras traveling from his native Georgia to Florida and then back on the day of the fire.
“In a violent act designed to instill fear and stop a witness from testifying at trial, Williams set fire to the victim’s vehicle in the middle of the night while it was parked outside of a residence occupied by four adults and two children,” said attorney Breon Peace, per the BBC. “Intimidating witnesses and threatening the safety of crime victims undermine the very fabric of our judicial system and will never be tolerated.”
In April, Williams submitted a guilty plea in a Brooklyn federal court to one count of arson. But this was not the first time an old associate of Kelly’s would be accused of violent threats.
In August 2020, Kelly’s former manager, Donnell Russell, was charged with one count of conspiracy to threaten physical harm by interstate communication and one count of threatening physical harm by interstate communication for allegedly threatening to shoot up the December 2018 Manhattan premiere of the Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly. The series included testimony from several women alleging that Kelly was a predatory sex offender who targeted underage girls for many years.
In September, Kelly was found guilty of all nine charges against him — eight counts of violating the Mann Act, an anti-sex-trafficking statute, and one count of racketeering after a six-week trial in New York. He’ll be sentenced on May 4, 2022 and is facing up to 20 years.
Kelly is also facing four charges, including child pornography, in his native Illinois with two of his associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton “June” Brown. The trial date has been set for Aug. 1, 2022.
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!