By TOM HAYS
NEW YORK (AP) – A former R. Kelly tour manager reluctantly testified on Friday that he paid a government employee a $ 500 bribe to obtain a fake ID from the singer Aaliyah so that Kelly can secretly marry her at the age of 15.
Demetrius Smith told a jury at Kelly’s sex trafficking trial that after visiting a Chicago-area welfare office in 1994, he brazenly approached an employee who was taking ID photos .
“Hey, do you want to make some money? He said he asked the employee before handing over the money. He was convinced the bribe would work because “everyone needs the money,” he added.
The welfare card was one of two fake pieces of identification used to allow the R&B legend to marry Aaliyah after he started sex with her and believed she had become pregnant. A marriage license which was entered in evidence incorrectly stated his age as 18; Kelly was 27 at the time.
Prosecutors said Kelly wanted to use the marriage, which was later called off, to protect herself from criminal charges relating to sex with a minor and to prevent her from testifying against him.
Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number”. She died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.
Kelly, now 54, is accused of bribery in a racketeering case accusing him of sexually assaulting several women, girls and boys during his 30-year career as a singer. He vehemently denied the accusations, saying the women were groupies who wanted to profit from his fame and fortune through hits like “I Believe Can Fly”.
Forced to testify against his will after being immune from future charges, Smith repeatedly told the judge that he was uncomfortable testifying, although he gave no specific reason. But with the sting of the judge, he explained how the singer came to see him while he was on tour in 1994 and told him, “Aaliyah is in trouble. We have to go home.
They rushed to Chicago after a concert in another city so they could arrange the wedding meant to “protect him and Aaliyah,” Smith said. He said he told Kelly, “I know how to get her ID, and I did.”
Earlier on Friday, another former Kelly employee, Anthony Navarro, was called in by the government to describe the inner workings of the Chicago-area mansion where Kelly had a recording studio and a constant flow of female visitors.
Being at the mansion “was almost like the” Twilight Zone “,” Navarro said. “It’s just a weird place.”
Navarro’s testimony reinforced the government’s claim that Kelly was in control of everything around him and created an environment in which girls and women entering space were faced with strict rules that left them little other choice. than to submit to the singer’s sexual whims.
Navarro told jurors he had never seen Kelly sexually assault his victims. But there were “girls” who stayed at his house for long periods of time and couldn’t eat or leave without Kelly’s permission, he said.
“There were times when they wanted (to leave) but couldn’t because they couldn’t get a ride or we couldn’t reach Rob” to get approval, he said.
Navarro, who was trained as a sound engineer, spent much of his time doing household chores for Kelly, such as driving visitors to and from her home.
“It was mostly girls who came to the studio,” he said.