Jury on Jelani Maraj child rape case deliberates
A Nassau County jury deciding the fate of rap superstar Nicki Minaj’s brother — who is on trial on charges of raping his stepdaughter in their Baldwin home in 2015 — did not reach a verdict on Wednesday, its first day of deliberations.
The panel of four women and eight men began considering whether or not Jelani Maraj, 38, sexually assaulted the girl, beginning when she was 11 years old, repeatedly between April and November 2015 while her mother was at work.
Maraj, arrested Dec. 1, 2015, was charged with predatory sexual assault against a child, which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison, and with second-degree course of sexual conduct and acting in a manner likely to injure a child. He’s free on $100,000 bail.
Newsday does not publish the names of alleged sexual abuse victims.
John Labau, 33, of Freeport, an alternate juror on the Maraj trial, who was relieved of his service Wednesday, said he would have acquitted the defendant because he said there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction.
“I really do think he did something to her, but based on the evidence I just can’t convict him,” Labau, a custodian, said in an interview outside the Nassau County Court in Mineola.
But Labau said he didn’t believe the defense assertion that Maraj’s wife — who said she filed for divorce in 2016 — fabricated the rape allegations and coerced her children to go along with her story in order to extort $25 million from the Maraj’s family.
The jury, which began deliberating at 11:20 a.m., sent two notes to state Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald, one at 12:25 p.m. and another at 12:42 p.m., asking to have the testimony of four witnesses read back.
The jury wanted to listen to readbacks from the alleged victim, who is now 14, Nassau Det. Jeannette Nardo, and Drs. Aaron Miller and Anne Meltzer, child abuse experts who testified for the prosecution.
In her closing statement on Monday, Nassau Assistant District Attorney Emma Slane told jurors they should believe the girl’s account, corroborated by physical evidence, and the girl’s younger brother who testified that when he was eight years old he saw Maraj and his big sister partially disrobed, and Maraj’s “private parts” touching his sister. Slane also pointed out that Maraj’s semen was found in the groin area of the girl’s pajama pants.
Defense attorney David Schwartz in his summation told jurors that his client’s ex-wife, whom Maraj married in August 2015, devised the rape allegations and coerced her children to go along with the scheme to “shake down” the Maraj’s family for $25 million. Schwartz said the girl’s mother planted the semen on the girl’s pajamas.
Deliberations are scheduled to resume Thursday.