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Courts & Trials

Nicki Minaj Is Supporting Brother ‘100 Percent’ During His Child Sex Abuse Trial, Defense Lawyer Says

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Jury selection began Wednesday in the child sex abuse trial of Jelani Maraj, the 38-year-old brother of rapper Nicki Minaj, PEOPLE confirms.

Maraj is expected to be tried for up to three weeks in Long Island, New York, on charges that he sexually abused a child younger than 13 years old — allegations he denies.

Maraj was first arrested in connection with the case in early December 2015 and, according to court records, is charged with predatory sex assault against a child, course of sexual conduct against a child in the first and second degrees and endangering the welfare of a child.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the case Thursday, and it remains unclear what led to the charges against Maraj or when the alleged abuse occurred.

If convicted of the most serious count, he could be sentenced to life behind bars.

“These are a bunch of lies,” his attorney, David Schwartz, told Newsday. “There’s a big, big motive to lie here which I can’t get into right now. But these are false accusations.”

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Maraj wore a gray suit and a blue tie to court this week. Outside, he was captured by photographers sipping an energy drink.

Soon after his arrest in 2015, Maraj was released from custody on $100,000 bail, reportedly backed by two of his sister’s homes.

Schwartz, who did not immediately return a message from PEOPLE, told Newsday that Minaj, 34, may attend part of her brother’s trial and supports him “100 percent.”

Minaj has not commented publicly on the charges against Maraj, and a rep for her did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

She posted a family photo with Maraj and others a few weeks after he was arrested.

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