‘The Risks Are Simply Too Great:’ Bail Denied for Ghislaine Maxwell

A federal judge ordered pretrial detention Tuesday for Ghislaine Maxwell, who was indicted this month for helping the late Jeffrey Epstein build a sex-trafficking empire.

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)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Refusing to let Jeffrey Epstein’s accused partner in crime spend the next year awaiting trial from a luxury New York City hotel, a federal judge denied bail Tuesday to Ghislaine Maxwell. 

“The risks are simply too great,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan proclaimed, toward the end of a nearly 2-1/2-hour hearing where Maxwell pleaded not guilty to six charges of grooming and abusing Epstein’s victims. 

The Obama-appointed Judge Nathan set a trial date for July 12, 2021, almost exactly a year from now.

As happened during Epstein’s hearing last year, the judge ruled after accusers were given the opportunity to argue for continued detention. Through a written statement read by a prosecutor, one anonymous woman depicted Maxwell as a woman with “nothing to lose” and “no remorse.”

“She was a predator and a monster,” Jane Doe said. “The sociopathic manner in which she nurtured our relationship, abused my trust, and took advantage of my vulnerability makes it clear to me that she would have done anything to get what she wanted, to satisfy Mr. Epstein.”

Without directly accusing Maxwell of witness intimidation, the Jane Doe accuser described having received a call threatening her 2-year-old after she stepped forward as a victim.

Another woman, Annie Farmer, call Maxwell “a sexual predator” who abused her and displayed contempt for the legal system.

“She has never showed any remorse for her heinous crimes or the devastating, lasting affects her actions caused,” Farmer said. “Instead she has lied under oath and tormented her survivors. The danger Maxwell poses must be taken seriously. She has associates across the globe, some of great means and is a significant flight risk.”

On top of charges accusing her of grooming and abusing underage girls for Epstein’s predation, Maxwell faces two counts of perjury for alleged false testimony during depositions in civil cases. In one of those cases, Virginia Giuffre claimed that Maxwell turned her into Epstein’s “sex slave” and trafficked her to powerful people around the world, including the United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew.

No longer living the jet-setting life, the former British socialite appeared in court via closed-circuit TV transmitted from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where she has been held since her arrest two weeks ago. Defense attorney Mark Cohen cited the coronavirus pandemic as a basis to free Maxwell, who is 58. Though no one has died of Covid-19 at the MDC, five people incarcerated there have reported infections.

Like many in the Southern District of New York, Judge Nathan expressed concerns in the past about how U.S. jails and prisons are handling the coronavirus pandemic. The judge also emphasized, however, that Maxwell’s age and underlying conditions do not make her at risk.

Of higher concern to Nathan was what prosecutors called Maxwell’s “extreme risk of flight.” This finding came after prosecutors described Maxwell’s astonishingly sub-rosa life, traveling frequently with three passports, owning more than a dozen bank accounts, living under assumed alter egos, and even entering into a secret marriage that she would not disclose to prosecutors.

That revelation came up in an offhand remark as Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe described Maxwell’s attempt to maintain secrecy over her assets.

“In addition to failing to describe in any way the absence of proposed co-signers of a bond, the defendant also makes no mention whatsoever about the financial circumstances or assets of her spouse whose identity she declined to provide to pretrial services,” Moe revealed.

Troubled by such disclosures, Judge Nathan ruled: “The court is persuaded that the government has met its burden,” adding the evidence against Maxwell “appears strong.”

As expected, Maxwell’s counsel tried to distance her client from her accused co-conspirator.

“Our client is not Jeffrey Epstein, and she has been the target of endless media spin,” Cohen said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Moe bristled at the defense’s efforts to paint the indictment as the creation of the global media rather than a federal grand jury.

“These are the facts,” Moe emphasized. “It is not dirt. It is not spin. That is the evidence, and that is what we have proffered to the court.”

The defense’s anti-press jibes took a hit with a new revelation from the hearing: Prosecutors say Maxwell adopted the persona of a reporter named Janet Marshall as an alter ego while in hiding, having previously revealed that she registered a phone as “G Max.” 

Conveying what a real estate agent told government agents, Moe told the judge: “Janet Marshall described herself as a journalist who wants privacy.”

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

These were just two of the elaborate measures that prosecutors allege Maxwell took to evade detection since Epstein’s arrest last year.

“She’s good at it,” the prosecutor said, referring to Maxwell’s undercover life. “She passes.”

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

Without knowing her “opaque” finances, Judge Nathan said, crafting reasonable bail conditions would be “practically impossible.”

Arrested in a sprawling New Hampshire property owned by a carefully anonymized LLC, Maxwell allegedly tried to elude the FBI even at the time of her arrest by fleeing to another room of her house. Agents found a cellphone wrapped in tin foil on her desk.

Brushing off that remarkable detail, Cohen said Maxwell was preserving the device as evidence because it had been hacked. He added that Maxwell would have surrendered had prosecutors notified her counsel about the arrest.

Scoffing at that proposal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Moe noted that is not how authorities plan the capture of a criminal target considered a flight risk.

It was Cohen meanwhile who disputed the prosecutors’ claim the childless Maxwell has little community ties holding her here. “She’s part of a very large and close family,” one that has come under strain, the lawyer added.

“People have received physical threats,” Cohen said. “They have received death threats.”

Allowing that Maxwell’s accusers are entitled to speak at her bail hearing under the Child Victims Rights Act, Cohen added: “I am cognizant that the new law gives crime victims a voice but not a veto.”

Losing their bail fight, Maxwell’s legal team has signaled an upcoming attempt to dismiss the indictment by citing the terms of a nonprosecution agreement that Epstein signed in 2007, purporting to immunize his unnamed accomplices.

“We have a case where the conduct is more than 25 years old,” he says, referring to allegations from between 1994 and 1997.

Tackling any claim of immunity head-on, prosecutors argued in a recent memo that such a defense would be “absurd.”

Dozens of spectators showed up to court to watch the proceedings via closed-circuit television, seeing Maxwell looking downcast and dejected as the judge read her ruling. Dressed in a brown T-shirt, she tilted her head down though much of the recitation of the ruling. Roughly 1,000 other people listened in through the court’s teleconferencing system, without the ability to view Maxwell’s physical reaction to the ruling.

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