Who is Jelani Maraj?
Jelani Maraj is a Trinidad and Tobago-born convicted rapist and paedophile currently facing a potential 25-years-to-life prison sentence in New York, USA. His trial garnered widespread media attention as he is a brother of the rapper and pop singer Onika Tanya Maraj, who is better known by her stage name, Nicki Minaj. Originally from Port of Spain, Maraj, along with his siblings, moved to The Bronx in New York City in 1988 to live with their mother, who had relocated there before them. He grew up there and witnessed his sister’s meteoric rise to stardom. By all accounts, he also found some success as an entrepreneur. He was the owner of the Ozone Park Daycare in Queens and was planning to set up another branch in New Jersey. In late 2015, Maraj was arrested and charged with repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl at his home in Long Island. In November 2017, he was convicted of the charges at a Nassau County courtroom in New York and is facing the probability of being sentenced to 25 years in jail. In October 2018, the presiding judge ordered a juror misconduct inquiry in the case.
Childhood & Early Life
Jelani Maraj was born on November 27, 1978, in Saint James, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to Robert and Carol Maraj. His father is of Dougla (Afro-Trinidadian mother and Indo-Trinidadian father) ancestry and has served as a financial executive and part-time gospel singer. His mother, of Afro-Trinidadian descent, sings gospel songs as well. When Maraj was young, Carol was employed in the payroll and accounting departments. Robert was an alcoholic and had developed addictions to other drugs as well. He had a turbulent personality and would resort to violence whenever he got angry. Maraj grew up with four siblings, sisters Maya, Onika, and Ming, and brother Micaiah.
After their mother settled in The Bronx, she sent for her children. Maraj was nine years old when he came to New York. He, Onika, and their siblings spent the rest of their childhood in the city, residing in a house on 147th Street.
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Not much is known about Maraj’s education. He was a business owner before he got arrested. He had a day-care centre named the Ozone Park Daycare in Queens. It was likely a successful venture as he was thinking of setting up another branch in New Jersey.His sister Onika, who is more known as Nicki Minaj, is one of the most prolific rappers in the world today. She wrote about him in at least three of her songs, ‘I’m the Best’, ‘Top of the World’, and ‘All Things Go’.
On August 22, 2015, Maraj tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend Jacqueline Robinson at Coral Houses in Baldwin, New York. Minaj reportedly spent $30,000 on the wedding.
Arrest & Conviction
In December 2015, it was reported that Maraj had been arrested in Nassau on the charges of raping a minor. He appeared before the court on 3 December facing charges of first-degree rape and first-degree course of sexual misconduct against a child. The victim, his stepdaughter, was 11 years old when the alleged crimes occurred. She was 12 years old when Maraj was apprehended by the police.
The judge ruled that Maraj had to pay a $100,000 bail, which he did on 3 December. The Nassau district attorney office initially refused to make any comment on the case, including on investigation, how old the child was, and how the authorities found out about the matter.
During the trial, the girl provided an excruciating account of sexual assaults that she stated took place as often as four times a week and sometimes twice a day, mostly when her mother was at work. She informed the jury that Maraj had dubbed her “his puppet”, adding that she could do nothing but comply with his wishes. Whenever she refused to do so, she was threatened and beaten. According to the prosecutors, they found Maraj’s DNA on the girl’s pyjama pants.
In November 2017, Maraj was found guilty of the charges against him. He is potentially facing a 25-years-to-life prison sentence. Maraj reportedly did not show any reaction when the verdict was read. His attorney, David Schwartz, stated that they were going to appeal. According to him, the rape allegations were devised by the girl’s mother to take $25 million in hush money from Nicki Minaj. While the prosecutors called the claim absurd, James R. Ray III, a civil attorney who served as the mother’s representative for a brief period, admitted in a testimony that while he did ask for $25 million from Maraj after his arrest to settle a possible lawsuit, the mother had no knowledge of it.
In 2018, the Daily Mail TV newscaster and former NFL player Jesse Palmer did a piece on Minaj, claiming that she still supported her brother. Minaj subsequently took to social media to vehemently refute the claim and state that she was going to sue him.
In 2018, following allegations of juror misconduct from the defence, the presiding judge ordered an inquiry into the matter. The allegations were originally made by an alternate juror who said that one juror stated that if Minaj did not come to testify in favour of her brother, then Maraj was guilty.