Former R. Kelly tour director reluctantly testifies to singer’s marriage to Aaliyah

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By Sonia Moghe, CNN

A former R. Kelly tour manager told jurors on Friday he was with Kelly and the late singer Aaliyah the day they applied for a marriage license in 1994, when she was just 15.

Demetrius Smith, 65, reluctantly testified, sometimes telling US District Judge Ann Donnelly that he “didn’t want to be here, period.”

Kelly, 54, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is on trial in New York City and has pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges and violating the Mann Act, a law against sex trafficking.

Prosecutors read a 2019 judge’s decision ordering Smith to testify before a grand jury in the case against Kelly, and reiterated that he would not be prosecuted for anything he testified to.

Smith eventually testified after several protests with his lawyer sitting next to him, often interrupting his testimony to consult her or refreshing her memory by reading part of her testimony in front of the grand jury.

He said he was present when Kelly met Aaliyah and told jurors he was concerned about their relationship. And he testified to how he and other members of Kelly’s inner circle worked to quickly help Kelly, then 27, marry Aaliyah, even though she was only 15, “to protect herself. , to protect Aaliyah “.

Kelly’s attorney told jurors many of the charges against his client were “exaggerated.” His lawyers argued that his relationship was consensual.

Regardless of this case, Kelly faces federal charges of child pornography and obstruction in the Northern District of Illinois.

He also faces state charges on several counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

He vehemently denied the charges.

“She had something special”

Smith said he first met Kelly when the singer was performing in a Chicago high school talent show in 1984. “He was a youngster. He sang original songs. He impressed me.” , said Smith.

Smith, a singer himself, eventually went to work for Kelly after signing with a record company, helping him with “everything he needed to advance his career,” he said.

With a photo of Aaliyah projected onto a screen in the Brooklyn Federal Courtroom, Smith testified about the day Kelly met Aaliyah at her family’s house in Detroit in 1992. Smith was there too and said Kelly was sat at her family’s piano and played while she sang.

“She had something special,” Smith recalls, saying of Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton.

Kelly wrote songs and produced Aaliyah’s debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” Smith said, and the two grew closer.

Smith said that sometimes Kelly would empty the room if Aaliyah felt uncomfortable and sometimes spent time with her alone in her apartment.

Smith insisted, “Everything Robert did with Aaliyah was about the music.”

And yet Smith testified that he was worried about the couple’s relationship, saying he thought they were “too friendly”, “playful” and that at one point he asked Kelly about herself. he was “playing” with the teenager.

“Aaliyah was young. I didn’t want people to have the wrong view, ”Smith said.

‘Aaliyah is in trouble, man’

When Kelly was on tour in August 1994, Smith said the singer said, as he was about to take the stage to perform, “Aaliyah is in trouble, man.”

Smith said Kelly was performing out of state and that Kelly wanted to return to Chicago right after the show, despite having more shows scheduled in the coming days.

On the trip back to Chicago, Smith said he learned what happened: Aaliyah believed she was pregnant and Kelly feared going to jail because Aaliyah was only 15 years old.

Smith said he offered to help get Aaliyah’s official ID and eventually took her to a welfare office, testifying that he bribed an office worker to help make from Aaliyah a welfare ID card, but that it did not show her the date of birth.

“I made her (the worker) an offer and she accepted the money,” Smith said. “I gave him $ 500.”

He said he and other members of Kelly’s inner circle accompanied Kelly and Aaliyah to Chicago area town hall where the couple applied for a marriage license.

Carolyn Harris, a supervisor at the Cook County Clerk’s Office in Illinois, also testified on Friday and spoke about the process of obtaining a marriage certificate. She was shown the marriage license application signed by Kelly and Aaliyah. The document showed that Aaliyah’s age was 18 when she married Kelly.

Shortly after getting their marriage license, in a Sheraton hotel suite near Chicago O’Hare Airport, the singer married Kelly with an officiating minister, according to Smith’s testimony and the license.

The wedding was called off the following year after Aaliyah’s family learned about it, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Smith became irritated after having to answer several questions about the singers’ marriage. “I’m uncomfortable with that – talking about Aaliyah all the time. His parents aren’t here, ”Smith said.

Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001, at the age of 22, in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of eight other people as they returned from filming her music video in the Caribbean. Friday marked the re-release of the five-time Grammy-nominated superstar’s studio album, “One In A Million,” which hit streaming services.

Kelly’s trial has so far included testimony from a woman who said the R&B singer sexually assaulted her when she was 16 – and that she was wearing a t-shirt with her cum on it .

The jury also heard from Kelly’s longtime personal doctor, who said he has been treating him for genital herpes since at least 2007, after prosecutors alleged the singer knowingly infected several people with the disease. sexually transmitted incurable.

CNN has contacted Aaliyah’s family for comment.

An official Instagram page for the late singer published a statement from Aaliyah Haughton’s estate on August 4 regarding the re-release of her music.

He said in part, “Protecting Aaliyah’s legacy is and always will be our goal.

The-CNN-Wire
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Ray Sanchez of CNN contributed to this report.

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