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Witnesses tell feds R. Kelly married Aaliyah to avoid prosecution

Kelly managed last year to smuggle a letter into the jail and used an “unmonitored line” to make an unrecorded phone call, prosecutors allege.

In this March 22, 2019, file photo, musician R. Kelly walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a hearing in his criminal sexual abuse trial in Chicago.
In this March 22, 2019, file photo, musician R. Kelly walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a hearing in his criminal sexual abuse trial in Chicago.
Sun-Times file photo

Witnesses told federal prosecutors that R. Kelly married his protégé Aaliyah in 1994 to avoid criminal charges and to keep her from testifying against him, according to a new court filing.

The feds also say Kelly managed to smuggle a letter last year into the federal jail where he’s been locked up and used an “unmonitored line” to make an unrecorded phone call.

For those reasons and others, prosecutors argue Kelly and his lawyers should not be allowed to learn the identities of two of the alleged victims in the case he faces in Brooklyn. They say it’s all part of a “consistent pattern” by Kelly of obstructing law enforcement.

“Simply put, the defendant’s past behavior reveals that if given the opportunity to influence a potential witness, the defendant will take it, and his incarceration may not be enough to prevent such conduct,” prosecutors wrote.

Kelly’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, has argued “the defense cannot conduct any investigation or adequately prepare for trial without knowing who each of the supposed ‘victims’ are.” He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Kelly has been locked up in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center ever since his arrest in July. He faces federal indictments in Chicago and Brooklyn, as well as local charges in Cook County and in Minnesota. The federal case in Chicago alleges child pornography and obstruction of justice charges, while the feds in Brooklyn have alleged racketeering.

A revised version of the Brooklyn indictment filed in December also accused Kelly of scheming with others to obtain fake identification for Aaliyah through bribery around the time of their marriage in 1994. Aaliyah was 15 at the time.

Prosecutors described the information they received from witnesses about the Aaliyah marriage in a letter filed Tuesday in Brooklyn. They filed the letter amid the ongoing dispute over whether Kelly and his lawyers should be allowed to learn the identities of two of the victims in the Brooklyn case.

Aaliyah, who died in 2001, is referred to in the document as “Jane Doe #1.” However, the facts alleged in the case make it clear it is her.

“Witnesses have advised the government that the defendant engaged in this bribery scheme to obtain a marriage license so he could quickly and secretly marry Jane Doe #1 to avoid criminal charges for engaging in a sexual relationship with Jane Doe #1, who was a minor at the time,” prosecutors wrote. “Specifically, the defendant believed that his marriage to Jane Doe #1 would prevent her from being able to testify against him in the event he were prosecuted for his criminal sexual relationship with her.”

Additionally, though Kelly’s lawyer has argued that Kelly “simply has no means or method by which to engage in any obstructive conduct,” prosecutors said Kelly has managed to get around rules at the federal jail.

They said an attorney brought a letter from a third party to Kelly during a legal visit in November. They said the letter was marked “Legal” to avoid inspection. They said the attorney who brought the letter “is not one of the defendant’s attorneys of record in this case.”

They also said that a prison staff member gave Kelly permission to use a telephone to contact a third party — a call that “was not recorded and obviously circumvented the protocols in place to ensure monitoring of the defendant’s communications.”

“These incidents demonstrate that the defendant has sought out, and likely will continue to seek out, clandestine means of communication,” prosecutors wrote. “It also demonstrates that the defendant has, at his disposal, individuals willing to assist him in bypassing the traditional methods used to monitor the defendant’s communications while incarcerated.”