The Mineola judge in the child rape case against rap superstar Nicki Minaj’s brother said Tuesday he learned in his chambers there may have been attempts to reach a civil settlement in the case to avoid a trial.
But state Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald denied a motion from the lawyer of Jelani Maraj for a mistrial, after a protest that the defense wasn’t allowed to confront a 10-year-old witness Monday with questions about a “settlement agreement.”
Maraj, 38, of Baldwin, faces up to life in prison if Nassau County jurors find him guilty of predatory sexual assault on a child.
Prosecutors say he repeatedly raped a sixth-grade girl over eight months in 2015. But the defense claims the charges are based on lies that the alleged victim’s mother fabricated to try to extort $25 million from Maraj’s world-famous musician sister.
Maraj’s attorney, David Schwartz, told the judge Tuesday — outside the jury’s presence — that his client’s Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness was violated Monday. The Garden City attorney said he hadn’t been allowed to query the 10-year-old boy – the brother of the alleged victim – about case worker’s notes he said showed the child “was talking about litigation” and “talking about a settlement agreement.”
He said after court that the issue “goes towards my whole theory of the case – which is a shakedown.”
In denying the mistrial, McDonald said in court Tuesday he had learned that “there may have been attempts to reach a civil settlement to avoid a trial” – attempts “many months after the arrest.” But he said he “made a determination” on what he “thought was right” in making his ruling.
The boy testified Monday he saw Maraj’s “private parts” touching his sister when he walked into a bedroom in a Baldwin house in 2015 and found them both partially unclothed. He also said Maraj slapped him repeatedly later and threatened him, telling him not to reveal what he had seen.
But the witness conceded he may not have gotten a good view of Maraj with his older sister because the lights weren’t on in the room.
Prosecutor Emma Slane argued against a mistrial Tuesday. She called the defense motion “absurd,” saying any questions about a settlement agreement were inappropriate for the 10-year-old witness.
Separately, scientist Erika Ziemak testified Tuesday about a stain – which she said testing showed could contain semen – on the alleged victim’s pajama pants. She said some of the DNA in the stain was “consistent” with the defendant’s DNA profile.
The former Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office employee said there was a 1 in 291 billion match to Maraj’s profile, but the DNA lab only judged a sample to be a conclusive match with a statistical probability measuring higher than 1 in 348 billion people.
Ziemak also testified that the girl’s DNA was in the stain mixture, and said during a cross examination there was some genetic material from a third person that was too small to test.
The expert agreed on cross-examination that it was possible for a third party to transfer wet semen onto a child’s pajama pants in different ways. She also said such a transfer could happen if a man’s wife rubbed semen from his underwear onto the pants — as the defense has suggested.
Testimony continues Wednesday.