R. Kelly faces bribery charge over 1994 marriage to underage Aaliyah

(L-R): Aaliyah and R. Kelly. Getty Images

R. Kelly has been accused by federal prosecutors of scheming with others to pay for a fake ID for an unnamed female one day before he married the late R&B singer Aaliyah, who was 15 years old at the time, in a secret ceremony in 1994.

The revised indictment, filed Thursday in New York, accuses Kelly of paying a bribe in exchange for a “fraudulent identification document” for someone identified only as “Jane Doe” on Aug. 30, 1994.

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A day later, Kelly, then 27, married Aaliyah, who lied about her age on the marriage licence, in a secret ceremony he arranged at a hotel in Chicago.

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The marriage was annulled months later because of Aaliyah’s age. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

According to The Associated Press, the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment about whom the fake ID was meant for, and the indictment didn’t mention the wedding, but a person familiar with the investigation confirmed the “Jane Doe” was Aaliyah. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the new charge and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The new charge marks the first time that Kelly’s brief marriage to the then-underage Aaliyah has been connected to any of the criminal cases against the I Believe I Can Fly singer.

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Kelly’s lawyer Douglas Anton tweeted about the new charge.

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“The absurdity continues…. 1994 Fake ID charge? New charge against R. Kelly linked to his marriage to Aaliyah,” Anton tweeted on Thursday.

Kelly’s lawyers have long maintained that he was unaware of Aaliyah’s age when they married. The Illinois marriage licence used for the wedding said she was 18.

The indictment didn’t identify the person who was paid the bribe in order to get the fake ID, except to say that the person was a public employee.

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Demetrius Smith, Kelly’s former assistant, spoke about the secret wedding in the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly.

Smith claimed he was the one who had the “papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged.”

“I was in the room when they got married,” Smith said. “I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony. She didn’t have on a white dress. He didn’t have on a tux. Just everyday wear. She looked worried and scared.”

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Kelly was already charged by Brooklyn prosecutors with racketeering, kidnapping, forced labour and sexual exploitation. They alleged he and his employees and assistants picked out women and girls at concerts and groomed them for sexual abuse.

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The Ignition Remix singer is currently being held without bond and is scheduled to stand trial in federal court in Chicago in April 2020 on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges before facing trial in Brooklyn in May.

Kelly was acquitted in 2008 on charges of videotaping himself having sex with a girl who prosecutors allege was as young as 13.

Kelly was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois of sexually abusing three girls and a woman. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

On May 30, Cook County prosecutors in Illinois added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

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In July, in federal court in Chicago, the Bump N’ Grind singer was indicted on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice, with prosecutors accusing him of paying off potential witnesses in his 2008 trial to get them to change their story.

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Kelly was also indicted in New York at that time with exploiting five victims, identified only as “Jane Does.” According to court papers, they include one he met while she was a radio station intern around 2004 and another at one of his concerts in 2015. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the original New York charges.

—With files from the Associated Press

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