The Slatest

R. Kelly Accused of Bribing Official for Fake ID to Marry 15-Year-Old Singer Aaliyah

R. Kelly wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
Singer R. Kelly at a court hearing in Chicago on Sept. 17. Pool/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors hit singer R. Kelly with another charge Thursday, accusing the 52-year-old of bribing an Illinois state official in 1994 to get then-15-year-old singer Aaliyah a fake ID saying she was 18 in order to marry her. Kelly was 27 years old when he married the underage singer whose album he also produced. The latest charge against the disgraced singer is part of an expansion of an existing racketeering indictment in New York, the New York Times reports, which adds to the more than a dozen federal and state charges facing the singer, ranging from producing child pornography and kidnapping to forced labor and failing to disclose an STD to sexual partners.

Kelly married Aaliyah on Aug. 31, 1994, according to the marriage license, which is a day after Kelly is alleged to have paid a bribe for her fake ID. Earlier that year, Aaliyah released her first album titled Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which was produced by Kelly, and later went platinum. The marriage was later annulled and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at 22. The indictment undermines Kelly’s already pretty far-fetched contention that he did not know Aaliyah, then a high school student, was underage at the time. “My understanding is that she did not claim to be 15, and in order to get married, she had to lie about her age,” a lawyer for Kelly told ABC’s Good Morning America earlier this year. “He was married to her when she was 15. Elvis was married to Priscilla,” the lawyer said, shrugging off the allegations.

This latest 25-year-old charge against Kelly, which like many of the accusations made against the singer, would normally fall outside the statute of limitations for such crimes, but is being pursued by prosecutors as part of a broad racketeering prosecution. Pursuing a racketeering charge, normally used to go after the mob, “where [Kelly] is accused of leading a criminal enterprise that recruited his fans, sometimes underage girls, to have sex with him—allows prosecutors to introduce acts from any time period that were part of the alleged conspiracy,” the Times notes. “His associates arranged for the travel and lodging of his sexual partners. But once they arrived, prosecutors said, the women had to follow strict rules. They were not allowed to leave their room without Mr. Kelly’s permission and had to call him ‘daddy.’ They were isolated from their friends and families, making them financially dependent on Mr. Kelly, the indictment said.”