A Year Apart, in a Covid-19 Age, Ghislaine Maxwell Stands in Jeffrey Epstein’s Place

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a July 2 news conference to announce charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Click here for a live feed of the hearing at Courthouse News

MANHATTAN (CN) — Almost exactly a year to the day after a federal judge rejected Jeffrey Epstein’s plea for bail, his ex-girlfriend and accused accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell will make a similar bid on Tuesday.

She is likely to face his same accusers and prosecutors, and to argue that she will meet the same fate as Epstein if incarcerated before trial.

Rather than threatening she will be found hanged in her cell like Epstein, however, counsel for Maxwell assert that keeping the 58-year-old locked up before trial could put her life at risk from the coronavirus.

The British socialite will appear in court via closed circuit TV transmitted through Metropolitan Detention Center, her Brooklyn-based jail that has seen five Covid-19 infections, though no deaths to date.

If her pre-hearing briefing is any guide, Maxwell’s attorney Mark Cohen, from the firm Cohen & Gresser, plans to hammer home a theme: His client is not Jeffrey Epstein, a man with whom Maxwell claims to have been out of contact for more than a decade.

“Ms. Maxwell vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” Cohen wrote in a memo late last week.

Prosecutors call the passage of time irrelevant to the six charges of Maxwell’s indictment, which accuse her of grooming and abusing Epstein’s victims in the late 1990s.

She could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted of those offenses, a heavy sentence that prosecutors believe gives the 58-year-old every incentive to leave.

“The charges in this case are unquestionably serious: the indictment alleges that Ghislaine Maxwell, in partnership with Jeffrey Epstein, a serial sexual predator, exploited and abused young girls for years,” prosecutors wrote in a memo released the day her indictment was unsealed.

Holding U.S., U.K. and French passports, Maxwell’s prodigious assets as the scion of a British publishing magnate are unknown even to prosecutors. She has asked for a $5 million bail package believed to be a fraction of her total net worth, which prosecutors illustrate by noting that just one of her more than a dozen bank accounts hold more than $20 million.

To show that Maxwell is a flight risk, prosecutors must reckon with the fact that she was arrested in U.S. territory: a 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, whose purchase prosecutors traced to an all-cash through a “carefully anonymized LLC.”

“Far from ‘hiding,’ she has lived in the United States since 1991, has litigated civil cases arising from her supposed ties to Epstein, and has not left the country even once since Epstein’s arrest a year ago, even though she was aware of the pending, and highly publicized, criminal investigation,” Maxwell’s attorneys countered.

This photo of Jeffrey Epstein embracing Ghislaine Maxwell was included in the Maxwell’s federal indictment in New York. (Credit: SDNY via Courthouse News)

Prosecutors previewed their counterargument to this defense on Monday, showing Maxwell appearing to try to hide from the FBI once agents knocked on her door.

“As the agents approached the front door to the main house, they announced themselves as FBI agents and directed the defendant to open the door,” prosecutors wrote in a memo dramatically recounting her arrest. “Through a window, the agents saw the defendant ignore the direction to open the door and, instead, try to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her. Agents were ultimately forced to breach the door in order to enter the house to arrest the defendant, who was found in an interior room in the house.”

Maxwell does not deny holding more than a dozen bank accounts, including foreign ones holding millions of dollars, or trying to avoid detection by registering a phone under the name “G Max” and ordering packages under a different person’s name.

Instead, she claims that these measures were necessary to avoid a media firestorm that included a Wild West-style poster and bounty printed a U.K. tabloid under the headline: ‘WANTED: The Sun is offering a £10,000 reward for information on Jeffrey Epstein pal Ghislaine Maxwell.”

Prosecutors claim that Maxwell’s methods to avert notice went even more cryptic. 

“Moreover, as the agents conducted a security sweep of the house, they also noticed a cell phone wrapped in tin foil on top of a desk, a seemingly misguided effort to evade detection, not by the press or public, which of course would have no ability to trace her phone or intercept her communications, but by law enforcement,” they wrote. 

After authorities ruled Epstein’s death a suicide, victims have found a decades-long quest for justice eluding them further. The U.S. government shut them out of an unusual 2007 plea deal that gave Epstein an extraordinarily light sentence under a statute painting them as teenage prostitutes.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan has given victims an opportunity to speak at today’s hearing, but it is not known who will take up that invitation.

Dozens of people will watch the proceedings via a live video feed in court, and up to 500 people can listen in through the court’s teleconferencing system. Those who attend live will be subject to the court’s strict protective measures in place for the coronavirus pandemic.

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