A Jane Doe who took the stand on day four of R. Kelly’s Brooklyn trial alleged that the singer married Aaliyah in 1994 so that she could get an abortion.
Aaliyah, who was just 15 at the time, was both too young to be married and too young to get an abortion (legally speaking). According to the anonymous witness, Kelly had gathered several of his girlfriends together one day, inviting them to ask him anything they wanted. When one of them asked Kelly why he’d married Aaliyah, Kelly explained that she needed legal permission as a minor to obtain the procedure, and only parents or spouses could grant it.
But in order to become her spouse, Kelly—who was 27 at the time—first had to secure a fake ID for Aaliyah, which showed that she was 18. She and Kelly were married in a secret ceremony at a hotel in Chicago.
Jane Doe’s account echoes testimony from Kelly’s former tour manager, who spoke in court last week about how Kelly left a concert tour when Aaliyah told him she thought she was pregnant. The tour manager, Demetrius Smith—who admitted to bribing a public official with $500 to make Aaliyah’s fake ID—speculated that Kelly married the teen R&B star to avoid jail time.
It’s unclear if Aaliyah was indeed pregnant, and if so, where she had the abortion Kelly allegedly spoke about with his girlfriends. Though there were no parental notification laws in effect in Illinois in 1994, there were in Michigan, where Aaliyah grew up: Legislation passed in 1990 requires anyone under the age of 18 to have the written consent of one parent or legal guardian to get the procedure.
The logic of Kelly’s story to his girlfriends doesn’t quite cohere—if he was going marry Aaliyah so he could give written consent to her getting an abortion as a 15-year-old, would that not also raise the question of why a 15-year-old has a husband? Besides: A spouse is not typically considered a “legal guardian” outside of the bounds of a conservatorship.
Nonetheless, the story is disturbing, another insight into the coercive relationship. What’s more, we will never know Aaliyah’s experience of it.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong,” Smith told the court of the marriage. “I shouldn’t be talking about Aaliyah ’cause she’s not here.”