Demetrius Smith, R. Kelly’s tour manager from 1984 to 1996, testified during the singer’s racketeering and sex trafficking trial in the Eastern District of New York courthouse in Brooklyn on Friday (Aug. 20) that he had reason to believe Kelly had impregnated the singer Aaliyah when she was still a minor.
While on tour, Smith says Kelly “told me that Aaliyah was ‘in trouble.’”
“He said, ‘Don’t call Barry, it’s deeper than you think,’” Smith recalled, referring to Kelly’s manager and Aaliyah’s uncle, Barry Hankerson.
The conversation occurred before a concert in a city that Smith could not recall, but said he was instructed to book a flight after the show. With bodyguard Tyree Jameson along, Smith said, “As soon as the show was over, we got in the car and went to the airport.”
Kelly was quiet in the limo, Smith recalled, and once they were on the plane, Kelly paused for a really long time with his eyes closed before making the revelation. “R. Kelly said, ‘Aaliyah, man. She think’s she’s pregnant,’” Smith testified. “It was a shock.”
Smith said Kelly told him that his business manager and accountant Daryl McDavid was already making arrangements for Kelly and Aaliyah to get married.
The two were later married in Cook County, Illinois, in August 1994. The only piece of identification Aaliyah had at the time was from the Department of Public Aid, which Carolyn Harris, a clerk at the department, testified in court on Friday is not generally accepted for a marriage license. She had turned 15 only six days prior, although the marriage certificate said she was 18.
Coincidentally, the testimony coincides with the streaming-service release of Aaliyah’s sophomore album, One in a Million, nearly 25 years after it initially came out. The album was first released Aug. 27, 1996, on Blackground — the label owned by Hankerson — and Atlantic Records. For years, Aaliyah’s music has been subject to a dispute between the label and her estate.
Kelly is being charged with racketeering and 14 underlying acts — including kidnapping, sex trafficking and forced labor — and eight counts of violating the federal Mann Act, which outlaws sex trafficking across state lines. If convicted on all counts, he will face 10 years to life in prison.
This story is developing.
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