A Manhattan civil attorney testified Wednesday he demanded $25 million from the brother of rapper Nicki Minaj when the mother of an alleged child rape victim hired him to seek damages.
Jelani Maraj, 38, of Baldwin, is on trial in Nassau County Court following his December 2015 arrest for the alleged sexual abuse of his former stepdaughter.
Defense attorney David Schwartz had told jurors the case is based on lies the alleged victim’s mother fabricated to try to extort $25 million from Maraj’s famous sister. He’s said the alleged victim’s mother contacted the rapper and her mother, saying “if she was paid $25 million, these charges could just go away.”
But the woman has denied any extortion plot and denied fabricating a tale of abuse and forcing her children to go along with it. The alleged victim also has testified that her account of abuse is real and not related to money.
Under a defense subpoena, lawyer James R. Ray III testified Wednesday that the mother of the alleged victim hired him in early 2016 to represent her children in a civil matter against Maraj. Ray said he called Maraj’s former defense firm in March 2016 and “asked them for a demand of $25 million to resolve the case,” just for “the civil side,” but that he was not prompted by the mother.
Ray said that when Maraj’s former lawyer told him Maraj had no money, he replied someone had to be paying the bills of the high-profile defense firm and asked about Maraj’s mother and sister.
“My conversation was, ‘Listen, he’s hired you, a high-paid attorney, so please it’s common sense that here someone has the money,’ ” Ray testified.
Ray also said he now knows Maraj’s sister to be “an entertainer by the name of Nicki Minaj,” but at the time of his demand, didn’t know who had any assets. Under cross-examination, he added that his law firm used a focus group to come up with the demand amount.
Ray also told prosecutor Emma Slane the mother never came to him demanding he get money from Maraj.
“She was never involved as far as what we did,” he said.
Ray told Schwartz the $25 million demand was rejected, and his firm never filed a lawsuit because the alleged victim’s mother fired them because she “didn’t like our strategy.”