An attorney for the brother of rapper Nicki Minaj told Nassau County jurors Thursday that the child rape charges against his client are based on lies fabricated in an attempt to extort $25 million from the music superstar.
However, a prosecutor detailed a harrowing account of alleged sexual abuse in her opening statement in which she said Jelani Maraj, 38, of Baldwin, raped a sixth-grade girl repeatedly over eight months, making her his “indentured sexual object.”
Maraj is facing up to life in prison if jurors find him guilty of the top count at his trial in Mineola.
Police arrested him in December 2015, accusing him of predatory sexual assault on a child. He pleaded not guilty.
Assistant District Attorney Emma Slane said the testimony of the victim herself, now 14, and her younger brother — who witnessed some of the abuse — would combine with medical and forensic evidence to prove Maraj was guilty.
Slane said authorities recovered the defendant’s semen on the groin area of the victim’s pajama pants. She also said Maraj threatened the child — who was 11 when the alleged abuse started — saying that she would be blamed, wouldn’t be believed and would end up in foster care if she told anyone what was happening.
“He used her and abused her to satisfy his sick sexual desires,” Slane said.
Defense attorney David Schwartz said the accuser was a “manipulative” and “devious” young woman. He said the accuser was collaborating with her mother who routinely beat her. To avoid more beatings, she went along with a “made-up tale” that boiled down to an “old-fashioned shakedown.”
“There are 25 million reasons why this child was brainwashed to lie and make up these charges,” the Garden City lawyer said.
Schwartz told jurors the accuser’s mother became obsessed with Maraj’s “world-famous sister” and tried to use him to extort the superstar, who is worth tens of millions of dollars.
The defense attorney said the accuser’s mother contacted the rapper and relayed “that if she was paid $25 million, these charges could just go away.”
Schwartz told jurors that the pajama pants were either cross-contaminated with other laundry, or otherwise contaminated, and that the accuser’s mother may have purposely rubbed Maraj’s underwear on them.
The defense attorney said after court that the rapper may testify during the trial.
It will continue Friday.