R. Kelly married the singer when she was just 15 years old

By Robyn Merrett
December 05, 2019 10:50 PM

New charges brought against disgraced singer R. Kelly allegedly reveal how he was able to marry late songstress Aaliyah Haughton when she was just 15 years old.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are accusing Kelly, 52, of bribing an Illinois government employee on Aug. 30, 1994 to issue Aaliyah a fake ID, so that he could legally marry her, according to the indictment filed on Thursday, obtained by PEOPLE.

Kelly allegedly had planned to use the fake ID to obtain a marriage license and show that Aaliyah was actually 18 years old and not 15, according to the indictment. Kelly was 27 at the time.

The following day, Kelly married Aaliyah in a secret ceremony with falsified paperwork. Their marriage was later annulled with the help of Aaliyah’s family.

Kelly’s attorney Steve Greenberg did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Details surrounding Kelly and Aaliyah’s relationship were explored on the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly. The series also shed light on the several other sexual misconduct allegations made against him.

R. Kelly, Aaliyah
R. Kelly, Aaliyah
| Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The documentary’s first episode includes an emotional interview with former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, who met Kelly at age 14 and claims she directly witnessed his sexual encounters with underaged girls in the ’90s, including Aaliyah.

“She truly was a beautiful young lady. We used to sneak Aaliyah out of the hotel room and take her all over the place,” says Cunningham. Aaliyah would go on to make it big with her debut Kelly-penned single “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” “Those were the good old days,” says the former backup singer, “but those are the things that also make you cry.”

During her interview, Cunningham breaks down recalling when she claims to have discovered her boss Kelly and Aaliyah had a sexual relationship.

“We were out on the road with Aaliyah,” she says. “On a tour bus, there really aren’t many confined spaces. When you get on the bus there are bunks and so these bunks have little curtains you can pull at night if you don’t want anybody to see you sleeping.”

“So it just so happened we were all laying in our bunks and the curtains are open, everybody’s communicating, laughing,” Cunningham continues. “When the [room] door flew open on the bus. Robert was having sex with Aaliyah.”

Kelly and Aaliyah never addressed the reports about the nature of their relationship, but in the documentary, his former personal assistant Demetrius Smith claims he was present at the wedding and admits to obtaining false documents for underaged Aaliyah.

| Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

“Robert came to me, we were in Miami,” recalls Smith. “Robert said, ‘Man we got Aaliyah in trouble.’” After asking what was the problem, Smith says he got a heartbreaking answer: “Robert mentioned to me that ‘I think she’s pregnant’. That broke my heart right there because I really believed him when he said that he wasn’t messing with Aaliyah. …Once he told me that I was at a loss for words.”

Smith goes on to claim, “I was in the room when they got married. I’m not proud of that. I had papers forged for them when Aaliyah was underaged. It was just a quick little ceremony, she didn’t have on a white dress he didn’t have on a tux. Just everyday wear. She looked worried and scared.”

Following the annulment, Aaliyah’s career continued to soar until she died tragically in a plane crash in 2001. She was 22.

The new bribery allegations against Kelly expand on the existing indictment brought against him this past summer.

Kelly is currently facing charges of sex-trafficking, sexual assault and child pornography spread throughout Brooklyn, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Musician R. Kelly arrives at the Daley Center for a hearing in his child support case, in Chicago R Kelly Investigation, Chicago, USA - 08 May 2019
R. Kelly
| Credit: Matt Marton/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In June, he pleaded not guilty to 11 felony sexual abuse counts after he was charged by Cook County prosecutors in Chicago in May. The charges included five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, stemming from one accuser who claimed Kelly abused her in 2009 and 2010 while she was underage.

A month later, the singer was arrested again and indicted on federal charges including child pornography, racketeering and obstruction of justice in both Illinois and New York, indictment documents and his lawyer confirmed. He has remained jailed since being denied bail.

Then in August, Kelly was charged with two sex crimes in Minnesota after allegedly paying a teen girl $200 to dance nude back in 2001.

Kelly has maintained his innocence throughout his legal troubles.