R. Kelly associate cops plea deal in arson case

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An associate of R. Kelly has confessed to pulling off an arson attack in a possible attempt to silence a witness in the incarcerated singer's racketeering case.

A Sports Utility Vehicle rented by Azriel Clary's father and parked outside the family's Florida home was set alight by Michael Williams last June, in what New York prosecutors claimed was an effort to intimidate Kelly's ex-girlfriend and prevent her from cooperating with authorities.

Cell phone records had shown that Williams, who is related to one of Kelly's former publicists, had searched for the address just two hours before the vehicle went up in flames, while his car was caught on toll plaza cameras en route from his home state of Georgia to Florida before the attack, and returning hours later.

He accepted a plea deal in a Brooklyn court on Monday, when he admitted to one count of arson, in exchange for officials dropping a witness tampering charge.

Williams, one of three associates arrested on suspicion of witness tampering last year, now faces a minimum of 60 months behind bars, reported the New York Post.

Kelly's racketeering trial is set to begin on 9 August.

The I Believe I Can Fly singer stands accused of leading a ring that helped him recruit women and girls for sex. He will also be on trial for the sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, kidnapping, forced labour and enticement.

Kelly has denied the allegations.

He has been behind bars in Chicago, Illinois, where he is facing a potential second trial for child pornography later this year, since his arrest in 2019.