An associate of R. Kelly has reached a plea deal with authorities after he confessed to setting ablaze a car that belonged to the family of the embattled musician’s ex-girlfriend. According to News 6, the June 2020 arson occurred outside the home of Azriel Clary in Florida.
The perpetrator, identified as Michael Williams, faces up to at least five years in prison. Clary was one of the two girlfriends cohabitating with the disgraced singer when the Surviving R. Kelly documentary was released in 2019. Her parents, who appeared in the documentary, are remembered for desperately calling on her to part ways with the singer and return home. After eventually leaving the singer, the 23-year-old accused him of sexual and physical abuse and had even agreed to testify against him before the arson incident. Williams allegedly carried out the act to intimidate Clary.
R. Kelly is currently in custody on a slew of charges including child sexual exploitation, kidnapping and forced labor. He could spend the rest of his life behind bars if found guilty. Williams, who reportedly knows the singer by way of a relative who was once his publicist, was pinned to the arson after authorities discovered he had searched for Clary’s address multiple times on Google prior to the incident.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also retrieved cell phone records that tracked Williams’ phone in Clary’s neighborhood around the time of the arson. The records also revealed he drove back to his hometown of Valdosta in Georgia after the fire. Images of an SUV that had no license plates and was connected to him were also captured by Florida’s Turnpike toll plaza cameras, News 6 reported.
Further information retrieved from Williams’ Google account revealed he had also previously keyed in the search “can you drive in Florida without a tag.” He also reportedly viewed videos of Clary on YouTube. Following the arson, authorities said the account connected to him was used to look up information on “witness intimidation” and open a website by name, “How Do Fertilizer Bombs Work?”.
“I drove from my house to Kissimmee, Florida and deliberately set a car on fire in someone’s driveway,” Williams admitted when he appeared before a court in New York on Monday. Reports said people inside the house saw him fleeing the scene after burning an SUV that was being rented by the father of Clary. Federal prosecutors dropped a witness tampering charge against Williams after he agreed to the plea deal.
“The plea agreement is fair in that the witness tampering charge as it relates to R. Kelly will be dismissed at sentencing,” defense lawyer Todd Spodek said, according to Page Six.