Ghislaine Maxwell making first appearance in person since arrest
Ghislaine Maxwell will make her first public appearance in nine months on Friday to answer additional sex crimes charges stemming from her time with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The 59-year-old British socialite, who could face four decades in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, has been held in a Brooklyn, New York, jail since July, when she was arrested in rural New Hampshire for allegedly helping Epstein procure girls for sex. She will appear in federal court in Manhattan.
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Prosecutors last month added another accuser, expanded the time frame for the crimes they claim and, for the first time, charged Maxwell with sex-trafficking a minor – a 14-year-old girl they say she manipulated into engaging in sex acts with Epstein and later paid. That charge carries a maximum prison term of 40 years, 20 years longer than the gravest charge in the original indictment.
The beefed-up prosecution is a “game changer,” according to Moira Penza, a partner at Wilkinson Stekloff. “For a jury it is more compelling when you have more recent charges,” said Penza, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who handled the government’s case against Keith Raniere, the convicted leader of the Nxivm sex cult.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, which included enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. Her lawyers have been fighting to free her on bail, saying she’s been subjected to extraordinary measures in jail, including being awakened by a flashlight every 15 minutes. Epstein died in a Manhattan lockup in 2019 while awaiting trial, a death New York City’s medical examiner ruled a suicide.
Treated Like Monster
Maxwell, whose trial is scheduled for July 12, denies wrongdoing and argues that the government has made her a scapegoat for Epstein. The U.S. has taken heat both for Epstein’s death, which left no one to answer for his alleged crimes, and for striking a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein in Florida more than a decade ago.
“She is no monster, but she is being treated like one because of the Epstein effect,’” her lawyers told an appeals court in seeking to win Maxwell’s release on bail.
Prosecutors, who describe Maxwell as having been in “an intimate relationship” with Epstein for years, claim she played a critical role in “normalizing” the alleged abuse by befriending the girls, taking them shopping and to the movies, and undressing in front of them for sexualized massages with Epstein. Minor Victim-4, as she is called in the new indictment, was about 14 when she met Epstein and Maxwell in Palm Beach, Florida, in 2001, according to the government. The U.S. says Maxwell groomed her for sexual encounters with Epstein over a three-year period.
The government has extended the case’s criminal chronology from a few years in the 1990s to more than a decade stretching into 2004.
Issues of Memory
“One of the things that you are going to be grappling with as a prosecutor are issues of memory,” Penza said. “During cross-examination they will delve into how long ago things were, how far in the past.” The more recent, the better, she said, adding that corroborating evidence such as emails and mobile phone records that the government may have from the 2000s might not be available from the 1990s.
Maxwell has been in the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since her July 2 arrest at a secluded, 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, to which the FBI said she had “slithered away.” She made a virtual court appearance shortly after her apprehension.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan has dealt the defense a series of blows. She has denied bail three times, even after Maxwell proposed a $28.5 million bond and offered to relinquish her French and British citizenship. And she has rejected Maxwell’s argument that the Florida deal the U.S. cut with Epstein shields her from prosecution.
Nathan did rule for Maxwell last week, saying she will be tried on a pair of perjury charges – for allegedly lying under oath in a defamation suit brought by an accuser – at a later date. Maxwell’s lawyers have asked that the July 12 start date for the sex crimes trial be pushed back at least 90 days to give them time to prepare their defense against the new charges.
Friday’s hearing comes a week after Maxwell failed to win dismissal of the original indictment, whose six charges included transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity as well as the two perjury counts.
The case is U.S. v. Maxwell, 20-cr-00330, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).