R. Kelly has been accused of bribery in connection to his 1994 marriage to then 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, according to a report in The New York Times.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn allege that Kelly, who has been charged with multiple sex-related crimes in recent months, bribed a government official to secure identification that said Aaliyah was 18 at the time of their wedding. The bribe reportedly occurred one day before Kelly and Aaliyah wed.
The investigation of the bribe allegation exists within a previous racketeering charge that claims Kelly sexually exploited underage girls and coerced them into illegal sexual activity, according to the Times.
Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
Kelly, who met Aaliyah through his manager and her uncle Barry Hankerson, produced Aaliyah's first album Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number. Neither party ever confirmed that they had married or were romantically involved, despite gossip surrounding their relationship at the time. Aaliyah reportedly annulled the marriage at her family’s demand shortly after. In 1997, she reportedly had the marriage expunged from her record.
In January, Kelly’s lawyer Steve Greenberg spoke to Good Morning America about Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah, defending it by comparing it to the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Priscilla was also a teenager when she married her then-husband. Greenberg also placed the blame for the age discrepancy on Aaliyah.
"[My] understanding is [Aaliyah] did not claim to be 15,” Greenberg said. “And in order to get married, she had to lie about her age." Greenberg did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for further comment.
Jim DeRogatis' recently published Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly claims that it was Kelly who obtained a fake ID for Aaliyah.
Kelly is the subject of 2019 Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly, which highlights multiple accusations of sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse against the R&B singer.
Abuse accusations against Kelly stem back to the ‘90s. In 2002, he was accused of creating child pornography when a tape allegedly showing Kelly engaging in sex acts with an underage woman surfaced. In 2017, Buzzfeed claimed that Kelly had created a “sex cult” where he abused women and held some against their will. Kelly has previously denied all allegations of abuse.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).