Rapper R. Kelly accused of paying bribes to marry Aaliyah who was only 15 then

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn accused R. Kelly (left) of bribing an Illinois government employee in order to obtain phony identification for Aaliyah in 1994. PHOTO: AP

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - One persistent question has dogged R. Kelly's two-decade music career: How was he able to legally marry singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was only 15?

On Thursday (Dec 5), federal prosecutors in Brooklyn accused Kelly of bribing an Illinois government employee on Aug 30, 1994 in order to obtain phoney identification for Aaliyah.

The fake ID was to be used to obtain a marriage licence that listed her age as 18, a person familiar with the matter said. Their marriage was later annulled.

The new allegation expands on an existing racketeering indictment filed in New York against Kelly that accuses him of sexually exploiting underage girls.

This year, Kelly, 52, has been criminally charged in several jurisdictions over sex abuse of minors.

Aaliyah died in 2001 in a plane crash at age 22.

More than two decades ago, Vibe magazine reported that an Illinois marriage licence for Kelly and Aaliyah listed her age as 18. He was 27 at the time. The licence was dated Aug 31, 1994, the day after he allegedly paid the bribe.

Aaliyah was 14 when she made her first album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, which was released in 1994 and produced by Kelly.

Law enforcement scrutiny of Kelly intensified after several women spoke publicly in a six-part Lifetime documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, which was released in January.

After the documentary aired, prosecutors in Illinois, New York and Minnesota filed criminal charges against Kelly, leading to his arrest.

He is being detained in federal custody in Chicago.

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