R. Kelly’s relationship with the late Aaliyah, a then-15-year-old singing sensation, took center stage at his sex crimes trial after his former tour manager revealed that she had a pregnancy scare before the two were married.
As prosecutors aim to prove that R. Kelly, 54, had manipulated and controlled many under-aged girls into a “sex cult,” members of his former staff and inner circle are speaking out about the singer’s most public relationship with a minor, leading up to Aaliyah’s tragic plane crash accident in 2001.
Testifying before a Brooklyn court in the first week of the trial, R. Kelly’s former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, recalled a show in 1994 when the R&B singer informed him that Aaliyah believed that she was pregnant with his child. In order to avoid statutory rape charges, since R. Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was 15, Smith said that he and R. Kelly’s accountant worked out a scheme to get the couple married as quick as possible.
“I told him that he couldn’t marry Aaliyah. She was too young,” Smith testified, with R. Kelly then asking him “whose side I was on?”
Smith ended up going along with the idea, wanting to “stay in the loop,” and ended up bribing a welfare clerk in Illinois to get Aaliyah a fake ID that said that she was old enough to get married. “I made her an offer, she took the money,” Smith said. “I gave her $500.” Staying at a hotel, they then hired a minister who wed the couple on the spot.
Reported by VIBE at the time, the cover story detailed how the surprise wedding listed Aaliyah as 18 years old to help R. Kelly avoid charges of statutory rape. If R. Kelly had forced Aaliyah to lie about her age, then the marriage would be void, but the legality of the marriage was nowhere near as big a story as the possibility that R. Kelly was sexually involved with a minor.
Mr. Smith was reportedly uneasy testifying on the witness stand, despite previously speaking about his time working for the R&B singer in the Surviving R. Kelly televised documentary series. He said that he stopped working for the couple shorty after the rushed pregnancy scare marriage, and that he was, “uncomfortable talking constantly about Aaliyah.”
The former manager even tried to plead the fifth and keep silent about the marriage plot, before the judge informed him that “the bottom line” was that he had to testify under subpoena.
Speaking of how the couple met when Aaliyah was just 12 years old, Smith testified that “they were more than friends from the very beginning.”
He thought that they were, “too playful at times,” but when he asked R. Kelly if he was messing around with Aaliyah as he produced her music, the singer would respond with a resounding, “No.”
The former tour manager appeared remorseful toward the end of his testimony, Vulture reported, as she said that he felt awful talking about the deceased, since she couldn’t be present, and neither could her parents.
“I don’t want to be here,” he said. “That shouldn’t have happened. That was wrong.”
Another witness set to testify this week is expected to provide testimony that they observed the couple in a sexual relationship starting when Aaliyah was 13, according to The New York Times, while another will corroborate the story about her alleged pregnancy scare.
R. Kelly has denied all of the accusations against him.