R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Wednesday to bribery charges that US media say relate to him marrying late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old. The disgraced superstar entered the plea in a New York federal court via video link from a courthouse in Chicago, where he is being detained on multiple sex crime allegations.
Kelly, 52 is charged with bribing a government employee in Illinois State on August 30, 1994 to obtain a “fraudulent identification document” for an unidentified woman. The New York Times reported that it was a fake ID to be used to obtain a marriage license for Aaliyah that listed her age as 18, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The ‘I Believe I can Fly’ singer married Aaliyah the day after he allegedly paid the bribe, several US newspapers have reported. The charge expands an earlier indictment that accuses him of systematically recruiting girls for sex while touring and coercing them into sexual activity.
He is due to go on trial in the spring. Kelly has a decades-long history of abuse allegations, especially of underage girls. But he began facing renewed scrutiny earlier this year upon the release of the docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which nabbed an Emmy nomination for outstanding informational series or special. Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, died aged 22 in 2001 in a plane crash in the Bahamas.