Jelani Maraj, the brother of rapper Nicki Minaj, has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for raping his 11-year-old stepdaughter. His sentencing comes more than two years after a jury found him guilty of predatory sexual assault and more than four years after he was initially charged with the crime. Maraj maintains his innocence despite eyewitness testimony from the victim’s brother, who claimed to have witnessed one assault, and DNA from Maraj found on the victim’s pajama bottoms.

At the sentencing hearing, Maraj pleaded for a “second chance,” stating that he had an alcohol problem. Maraj’s attorney asked for a sentence of 10 years to life, the minimum in cases like this, calling Maraj, “A good man.” The attorney also cited Maraj’s health problems, including hypertension and gout, as reasons for a shorter sentence. Even a letter from Minaj herself, written after Maraj’s initial charge but before his conviction, was read in the court. In the letter, she called her brother, “the most patient, gentle, genuine, giving, selfless man.”

Despite these arguments for leniency, State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald, who oversaw the hearing, was curt to the 41-year-old Maraj. “You ruined this child,” Judge McDonald is told Maraj. “You raped this child. You raped her over and over again,” the judge also said. The victim and her brother, who were also present at the sentencing hearing, received kinder words from Judge McDonald, who called them “heroes.”


Maraj and his attorney are planning on pursuing an appeal. Maraj has stated he believes that the charges brought against him were an attempt to extort Minaj out of $25 million. An attorney who briefly worked for the victim and her family did testify that he asked Maraj for a $25 million settlement, but the family was unaware that he had done so. The attorney was later fired.

Minaj herself has made no public comments about the case.