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Kelly’s confession comes nearly three decades after the pair were alleged to have been married in an illegal ceremony when Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was 15. Kelly served as executive producer on Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, and had previously denied rumours that he and his then-protégé had a sexual relationship.
Kelly is currently standing trial on allegations that he led an enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit women and girls for sex. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking.
In a statement to The Independent, Thomas A Farinella, one of the lawyers defending Kelly, wrote: “The defence does concede that Mr Kelly had underage sexual contact with Jane Doe #1.”
Kelly’s lawyers had previously attempted to dismiss claims by prosecutors that involved “Jane Doe #1” due to her “unfortunate passing… on 25 August 2001”, citing that “she is legally unavailable”. Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash on 25 August 2001 at the age of 22.
In 1994, when she was 15, Aaliyah said in an interview that she was “rather close” to Kelly, but denied that the pair had married. Despite her and Kelly’s denials, a 2000 report in The Chicago Sun-Times uncovered evidence that Aaliyah had filed suit in 1997 seeking to have all records of their marriage expunged. The singer told the court that she was not old enough to marry without the consent of her parents.
The report further claimed that Kelly and Aaliyah had married on 31 August 1994, with Aaliyah declaring herself 18 years old on the pair’s marriage certificate. Aaliyah and her parents had the marriage annulled shortly after the ceremony.
After severing professional ties with Kelly in 1995, Aaliyah went on to have a successful music career, but always shut down questions about her former association with Kelly.
In 2016, Kelly said that he and Aaliyah were “best friends, deep friends” and that he was in love with her “just like [he] was in love with anybody else”. He also said that he would not address their relationship or rumoured marriage.
In 2019, Kelly’s lawyer Steven Greenberg admitted that his client had married Aaliyah in 1994, but claimed that Kelly had “no idea” that the singer was 15 and that she “had to lie about her age”.
Kelly’s trial is ongoing, with his lawyers arguing that “his funds are depleted” and that he requires new clothing as he has gained so much weight in jail.
Numerous witnesses are expected to be called to the stand by Kelly’s prosecutors, including women who claim they were sexually and physically abused by the singer.
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