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R. Kelly's defense lawyer, Thomas Farinella, appeared to admit during pretrial hearings in a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday that his client the had engaged in sexual contact with the singer Aaliyah when she was underage and the two were illegally married.
Farinella was being questioned by federal Judge Ann Donnelly in a pretrial hearing on the federal racketeering charges that Kelly is facing. (Jury selection in Kelly's trial is due to begin on Aug. 9.) On July 22, prosecutors in the case had asked for permission to admit additional evidence of crimes not charged in the case as evidence of the broader racketeering effort.
Among the other crimes prosecutors wish to be able to admit into evidence is an alleged bribe paid to a state worker in the mid-1990s to make an identification card for a 15-year-old girl that said she was 18. The girl, identified in court paperwork as "Jane Doe 1," has been identified by CNN and Reuters as the late singer Aaliyah. The identification card was, according to New York Times coverage of Kelly's 2019 indictment on federal bribery charges in that case, used to fraudulently obtain the marriage license with which Kelly and the then-15-year-old singer were married in 1994. (The marriage was later annulled.)
Judge Donnelly asked Kelly's lawyer, “Are you going to deny that there was sexual contact with Jane Doe 1?” because, she noted, they were married, according to the NY Daily News.
Farinella, the paper reported, said, "No."
But when federal prosecutor asked the judge, "Are they not going to dispute that at the time Jane Doe 1 was 13 to 15 years old?" Farinella said that they were, in fact, disputing something.
"We’re not prepared to concede that right now," he told the judge, according to the newspaper.
The allegations about the bribery and the marriage are reportedly in support of a line of argument that prosecutors wish to make at Kelly's racketeering trial: the Chicago Tribune reported that, if the judge allows it, the government plans to argue that the marriage was an attempt by Kelly to avoid criminal charges after Aaliyah became pregnant.
The judge is expected to rule on prosecutors' motion to include the new evidence well before the trial begins on August 18.
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