R. Kelly and Aaliyah: A look at an illegitimate marriage

On Wednesday, fallen R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for using his fame to subject young fans — some just children — to systematic sexual abuse.

The Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer and songwriter was convicted last year of racketeering and sex trafficking at a trial that gave voice to accusers who had previously wondered if their stories were being ignored because they were Black women.

Part of the legal case involved his marriage to the late R&B singer Aaliyah, who has since died in a plane crash. 

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During the trial, evidence was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. 

Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.

Who was Aaliyah?

Born January 1979, Aaliyah Haughton, with her silky smooth voice, signed a record deal with her uncle in Detroit when she was just 12. 

Billboard Magazine said Aaliyah "revolutionized R&B with her honey-coated voice and sultry mix of pop, soul and hip-hop."

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Aaliyah’s "Try Again" beat out Britney Spears’ "Oops!... I Did It Again" video and Christina Aguilera’s "What a Girl Wants" to win best female video at the MTV video awards in 2000, another sign she was poised for superstardom.

Aaliyah also went on to win three American Music Awards and two MTV VMAs, along with five Grammy nominations.

The singer also made waves in the fashion industry.

Her signature style of a crop top or bandeau top paired with baggy jeans, with long hair partially covering her left eye, is emblematic of her "sweet but street" style and still emulated today.

She also had roles in the movies "Romeo Must Die" and "Queen of the Damned," and was set to act in the "Matrix" sequels before she died.

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On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah boarded a twin-engine Cessna in the Bahamas, where she was shooting a music video for her third and final self-titled album, "Aaliyah." The Florida-bound plane went down seconds after take-off.

An investigation showed the aircraft was overloaded by 700 pounds, and an autopsy found cocaine and alcohol in the pilot’s body, according to a coroner’s testimony.

In 2003, Aaliyah’s parents, Michael and Diana Haughton, filed papers in Los Angeles court saying they had reached an undisclosed settlement with the plane’s operator, owners and flight broker.

How did Aaliyah and R. Kelly meet?

Two years later after she was signed, Aaliyah teamed with Kelly to make her first record "Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number." 

She became involved with Kelly and the two were secretly married when Aaliyah was just 15. Her parents discovered this and quickly annulled the marriage.


This photo taken in June 2001 shows actress-singer Aaliyah attending the 2001 MTV Movie awards in Los Angeles. - A Chicago native who soared to global celebrity on a burst of megahits in the 1990s, for years R. Kelly endured as one of R&B's t

But the scandal tarnished Aaliyah’s reputation more than Kelly’s. She was portrayed as a teen seductress rather than one of Kelly’s first and many victims.

Trial evidence details how R. Kelly married Aaliyah

In 2019, federal prosecutors charged Kelly with scheming with others to pay for a fake ID for an unnamed female a day before he married Aaliyah.

The revised indictment accused Kelly of paying a bribe in exchange for a "fraudulent identification document" for someone identified only as "Jane Doe" on Aug. 30, 1994.

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A day later, Kelly, then 27, married Aaliyah in a secret ceremony he arranged at a hotel in Chicago. 

At the time, the U.S. attorney’s office 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 confirmed the "Jane Doe" was Aaliyah. 

The charges marked the first time that Kelly’s brief marriage to Aaliyah has been connected to any of the criminal cases against Kelly.

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 Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.