The brother of rapper Nicki Minaj has been convicted of predatory sexual assault after being charged with repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl at his Long Island home.
Jurors delivered their verdict on the second day of deliberations in Jelani Maraj's trial. The charges carry the potential for 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced 14 December. Maraj, 38, was led away in handcuffs after bail was revoked following his conviction.
Maraj did not appear to react when the verdict was read in a Nassau County courtroom. His lawyer said he will appeal. He contended the rape allegations were concocted by the girl's mother as part of a scheme to get Nicki Minaj to pay the family $25 million in hush money, a claim prosecutors called absurd.
“We have 50 appealable issues,” David Schwartz said. “The amount of evidence we have that wasn't allowed in this case is unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. I am shocked.”
The girl, now 14, testified in excruciating detail about sexual assaults that she said occurred as frequently as four times a week and sometimes twice a day, mostly when Maraj was home alone with the girl.
Prosecutors said DNA evidence recovered from the girl's pyjama pants was linked to Maraj. The girl's younger brother also testified at the trial that he witnessed one assault.
“We hope that today's verdict will help the family in the healing process and that it will close this terrible chapter in their lives,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
The girl's mother denied that the accusations were made up.
James R. Ray III, a civil attorney who briefly represented the mother, testified that he did demand $25 million from Jelani Maraj after he had already been arrested to settle a potential lawsuit, but he said the girl's mother was unaware of the demand.
“She was never involved as far as what we did,” he testified. The woman later fired him as her attorney.
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Neither Maraj nor his sister testified at the trial.
A spokesman for Minaj's record label did not respond to an email seeking comment on the case. Minaj has been nominated for a Grammy award 10 times and won six American Music Awards.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, and is not identifying the girl's mother to protect her daughter's identity.
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