As R. Kelly’s trial begins in New York, prosecutors have revealed more information on the singer’s illegal marriage to Aaliyah, while another woman has come forward to testify against the 54-year-old singer.
R. Kelly, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly, was charged with multiple accounts of sexual abuse while allegedly running a racketeering enterprise from the mid-90s to cover up his crimes. The artist pleads not guilty to all charges.
Kelly was arrested in 2019 as victims came forward to testify against him, and has been accused of solicited kidnapping, sex trafficking, abuse, forced labour, and other crimes. Five accusers have stepped forward to testify against the singer.
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The trial began in Brooklyn, New York, this morning where more information arose of Kelly’s illegal marriage to late singer Aaliyah, who prosecutors believe became pregnant with Kelly’s child at the age of 15.
Prosecutor Cruz Melendez argued that after she fell pregnant, the singer attempted to cover his tracks by marrying the 15-year-old. “This was, of course, a huge problem for him,” Melendez told the judge.
“If she was pregnant that meant there would be questions: At the very top of that list of questions: who is the father of that baby?”
Kelly married the R&B singer in 1994 when he was 27, 12 years older than Aaliyah. The prosecutor believes the marriage to have been a cover-up in order to stop the 15-year-old from testifying against him in court.
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The singer was allegedly bribed by Kelly to fake documents so that the pair could get married, with her marriage certificate claiming that she was 18 and of legal age. One year later, the marriage was annulled.
Multiple cases against the singer date back 20 years, with the first heard in court, Jerhonda Johnson Pace, claiming that the singer proceeded to have sex with her in 2009 despite knowing that she was underage.
She told the court that she was under the legal age of 17 when the pair had sex in Chicago and still owns a t-shirt with the singer’s semen on it as proof. The graphic testimony detailed how Pace, who was 16 at the time, had a sexual relationship with Kelly for six months.
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Prosecutor Melendez told the judge that Kelly is a "predator" who “used his fame, his popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom, and exploit girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
Kelly’s defence, Nicole Blank Becker, has so far argued that there is no proof that Aaliyah was pregnant, and that the majority of girls that Kelly engaged in intercourse with were groupies who lied about their age.
“He didn't recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr Kelly,” she claimed, adding that they enjoyed the “notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar.”
If the singer is found guilty, he could face decades in prison. The trial is still ongoing and could last up to a month.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter