R. Kelly married the late pop star Aaliyah when she was just 15 because he believed she was pregnant — part of a bid by the R&B singer to avoid jail, his former tour manager testified in Brooklyn federal court Friday.
Demetrius Smith, who worked with the “Bump n’ Grind” singer in the 90s, said that Kelly tied the knot with his underage girlfriend “to protect himself, to protect Aaliyah” after learning she was knocked up.
“Aaliyah is in trouble, we need to go home,” Smith said Kelly confessed at a concert in Orlando, Fla. around 1994. “Aaliyah, man, she thinks she’s pregnant.”
Kelly left the tour immediately, flying home to Chicago where a minister married him and Aaliyah in a hotel, Smith said.
Asked by a prosecutor what Kelly needed protection from, Smith said: “I guess jail.”
Smith said he was initially uncomfortable with how flirty Kelly was around the “Back & Forth” songstress shortly after they met in 1992, when Aaliyah was 13 years old, he said.
“I just thought they were too playful, too friendly…he was seducing her,” said Smith, who met Kelly through Aaliyah’s uncle and Kelly’s manager Barry Hankerson.
On Friday — the third day of the 54-year-old singer’s sex crimes and racketeering trial — lawyers for Kelly also presented a 1994 marriage certificate showing Aaliyah had apparently lied that she was 18 years old when marrying Kelly, who was 27 at the time.
Smith also admitted to bribing a public employee with $500 to get Aaliyah a fake ID so the wedding could happen.
The testimony came just days before the 20th anniversary of Aaliyah’s tragic death, and as the singer’s sophomore album “One in a Million” was released on streaming platforms this week.
Earlier in the trial, Smith noted that Kelly wrote much of Aaliyah’s first record — prompting a prosecutor to ask, “What was the name of the album?”
“Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” Smith replied.
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