POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WKMG) -- An associate of embattled singer R. Kelly was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a vehicle outside of a Central Florida home after federal authorities identified him through Google search history records, recently unsealed court documents show.
Michael Williams, a relative of Kelly’s former publicist, has pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and witness tampering that stem from the June 11 incident at the Polk County home of Azriel Clary, the musician’s former girlfriend.
Clary, 22, claims that she was sexually and physically abused by the R&B singer. As Clary was preparing to testify against Kelly in federal court, her mother called 911 report the family’s car had been set on fire by someone wearing a hoodie.
Federal authorities later discovered an accelerant, possibly gasoline, had been poured around the perimeter of Clary’s home.
Four days after the fire, a federal judge authorized a search warrant that was issued to Google for records on people who had searched Clary’s home address. Among the unspecified number of individuals who searched the address was someone using a phone registered to Williams while signed into his Google account, court records allege. That phone was used to look up Clary’s address three times in five hours before the arson, authorities claim.
Cellphone records later obtained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate Williams’s phone pinged off cellular towers near Clary’s home before returning to Williams’s hometown of Valdosta, Georgia.
An SUV matching one associated with Williams was photographed by Florida Turnpike toll plaza cameras after the arson, records show, although there was no license plate on the vehicle.
While later examining Williams’s Google account, investigators said they found evidence it has been used in April to search “can you drive in Florida without a tag” and, later, YouTube videos about Clary.
Weeks after the arson, Williams’s account was used to search for the term “witness intimidation” and to visit a website titled “How Do Fertilizer Bombs Work?”, federal authorities claim.
Williams’s attorney plans to argue that the warrant initially used to obtain Google search results for Clary’s home address was in violation of his client’s constitutional right against unreasonable searches without probable cause.