Jury selection starts Wednesday in the child rape case against the brother of award-winning rapper Nicki Minaj — a trial in which in the Baldwin man will have his superstar sister’s full support, according to his defense lawyer.
Authorities arrested Jelani Maraj, then 37, in December 2015, accusing him of a predatory sexual assault on a child. He has pleaded not guilty.
At the time, a source identified the man as Minaj’s brother and also told Newsday the alleged victim was 12 years old.
On Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald dropped a less serious felony count against Maraj at the prosecution’s request during a pretrial court conference in Mineola in Nassau County Court.
Court records show Maraj still faces an additional felony charge of second-degree course of sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of acting in a manner likely to injure a child.
The prosecution revealed in court Tuesday they’ll present pajama pants that allegedly have the defendant’s DNA in the groin area as evidence in the case.
Maraj, who is free on $100,000 bond, made an obscene gesture at a news camera and ignored a request for comment after leaving the Mineola courtroom.
His attorney, David Schwartz of Garden City, said his client — who’s facing up to life in prison if convicted of the top count — would be acquitted and was looking forward to the trial.
“These are a bunch of lies,” he said of the charges. “There’s a big, big motive to lie here which I can’t get into right now. But these are false accusations.”
Schwartz said Minaj was backing her brother “absolutely, 100 percent. ” He said she wouldn’t be in court Wednesday but might attend part of the trial.
Miriam Sholder, a spokeswoman for the Nassau district attorney’s office, said prosecutors had no comment on the case Tuesday.