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According to the New York Times, the disgraced R&B singer appeared in court on Wednesday for the start of his federal racketeering trial, in which he faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse. While giving her opening statements, Brooklyn Assistant US Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez addressed Kelly’s alleged union with Aaliyah in 1994, when he was 27 and she was 15. Melendez said prosecutors believe Kelly had learned that Aaliyah had become pregnant and that he was the father of the unborn child. He then allegedly orchestrated a plan to marry the underage singer so she could avoid testifying against him in court.
“This was, of course, a huge problem for him,” Cruz Melendez said about Aaliyah’s purported pregnancy. “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 is said to have bribed a Chicago official to provide a fake ID for Aaliyah, who is identified as “Jane Doe No. 1” in court documents. Authorities say the marriage certificate listed the late singer’s age as 18. The marriage was annulled a year later.
Aaliyah’s alleged pregnancy has been previously reported on.
“This case is about a predator,” Cruz Melendez said, adding that Kelly used “his fame, his popularity and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom and exploit young girls, boys and women for his own sexual gratification.”
Kelly is facing a slew of charges in his racketeering case, including forced labor, kidnapping, sex trafficking, and multiple violations of the Mann Act, which criminalizes the transportation of “any woman or girl” across state lines for “immoral purposes.”
The now-54-year-old artist has denied the allegations against him, including his alleged sexual relationship with Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash at age 22. During a recent pre-trial hearing, Kelly’s attorney was asked if the defense was prepared to deny the allegations that Kelly had sexual contact with an underage Aaliyah. Lawyer Thomas Farinella initially responded “no,” but later stated, “the defense DOES NOT concede that Mr. Kelly had underage sexual contact with Jane Doe # 1.”
Nicole Blank Becker, one of the lawyers representing Kelly, told the court there is no proof that an underage Aaliyah was pregnant before the purported marriage. She then asked the jury to remain skeptical about Kelly’s alleged fake ID scheme.
“Aaliyah, God rest her soul, passed away,” she said, as reported by Insider. “If Mr. Kelly was involved in a crime in 1994 would we be here today?”
The trial centers on allegations from six different women, who say they endured physical and emotional abuse by Kelly. The embattled artist is facing 10 years to life behind bars if convicted of the charges.