NEW YORK (AP) — Singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he schemed with others to pay for a fake ID for an unnamed female a day before he married R&B singer Aaliyah, then 15 years old, in a secret ceremony in 1994.
Kelly entered the plea in New York via a video feed from Chicago, where he remains jailed while facing multiple sex crime and other criminal charges.
A revised indictment filed earlier this month in federal court in Brooklyn accuses Kelly of paying a bribe in exchange for a “fraudulent identification document” for someone identified only as “Jane Doe” on Aug. 30, 1994.
A day later, Kelly, then 27, married Aaliyah in a secret ceremony he arranged at a hotel in Chicago. The marriage was annulled months later because of her age. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
The U.S. attorney’s office has declined to comment about whom the fake ID was meant for, and the indictment didn’t mention the wedding, but a person familiar with the investigation has confirmed the “Jane Doe” was Aaliyah. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the new charge and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kelly told the judge on Wednesday that he understood the charges before a lawyer in Chicago entered the plea. Wearing an orange jail outfit, he had smiled as the attorney greeted him then stood with his hands behind his back during the brief proceeding.
The new charges marked the first time that Kelly’s brief marriage to Aaliyah has been connected to any of the criminal cases against Kelly. His attorneys have called the charges baseless.
Outside court on in New York on Wednesday, another defense attorney, Douglas Anton, called Kelly a “musical genius.” But as for getting a fake ID, “He would have no idea how to do that,” he added.
The Brooklyn prosecutors had already charged R. Kelly with racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and sexual exploitation. They alleged he and his employees and assistants picked out women and girls at concerts and groomed them for sexual abuse.
The 52-year-old singer, who is being held without bond, is scheduled to stand trial in federal court in Chicago in April on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges before facing trial in Brooklyn. Kelly, whose given name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was acquitted in 2008 on charges of videotaping himself having sex with a girl who prosecutors allege was as young as 13.
Kelly’s attorneys have long maintained that he was unaware of Aaliyah’s age when they married. The Illinois marriage license used for the wedding said she was 18.
The indictment didn’t identify the person who was paid the bribe in order to get the fake ID, except to say that the person was a public employee.
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.”
By TOM HAYS
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