Rapper Nicki Minaj's Brother Jelani Maraj Convicted of Sexually Assaulting a Child
Jelani Maraj, the 38-year-old brother of rapper Nicki Minaj, was found guilty Thursday of predatory sexual assault on a child younger than 13 years old, PEOPLE confirms.
Maraj, who long denied the allegations, was tried in Nassau County, New York. Jurors convicted him of endangering the welfare of a child and predatory sexual assault on a child younger than 13, Nassau County District Attorney Spokesman Brendan Brosh tells PEOPLE.
Maraj was first arrested in connection with the case in early December 2015. He faces 25 years to life behind bars when he is sentenced next month.
The trial lasted over a month, and saw the defense arguing that the allegations were fabricated in an attempt to extort $25 million from the Maraj’s famous sister.
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Maraj was stoic as the verdict was read. He is now being held at the Nassau County Jail until his upcoming sentencing, according to Newsday.
Soon after his arrest in 2015, Maraj was released from custody on $100,000 bail, reportedly backed by two of his sister’s homes.
His attorney, David Schwartz, did not immediately return a message from PEOPLE. It remains unclear if he plans to appeal the verdict.
Minaj has never commented publicly on the charges against Maraj, and a rep for her did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
She posted a family photo with Maraj and others a few weeks after he was arrested.
“Justice demanded that this defendant be held accountable for these heinous acts and we are thankful to the jury for their careful deliberation,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas in a statement to PEOPLE. “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.”
Prosecutors alleged at trial that Maraj started abusing the victim when she was 11, and raped her repeatedly between April and November 2015 while her mother was working, Newsday reports.
The girl, who is now 14, testified that Maraj called her “his puppet” and said she had “no say” in the things that were being done to her. According to the paper, if she refused his advances, he physically attacked her, she testified.
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She also told the jury Maraj warned her to keep the abuse a secret.
His lawyers countered that the girl’s mother beat her into complying with the fraudulent criminal claims, as part of an attempted shakedown of Maraj’s superstar singer, according to Newsday‘s account of the proceedings.
Carol Maraj, Jelani’s mother, also testified, saying that the mother of the victim once told her that “It’s gonna take lots of money to get out of this one.”
The girl’s brother, now 10, testified that he saw Maraj’s “private parts” touching his sister after he walked in on the two of them in 2015 partially clothed. Maraj, the boy said, told him to stay silent or he would be taken from his mother.