Friday marked the international socialite’s first court appearance since her dramatic arrest nearly a year ago at a sprawling estate in New Hampshire.
MANHATTAN (CN) — Waiving a reading of the new indictment against her, Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty Friday at a 9-minute, in-person arraignment related to her alleged support of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious sex ring.
The 59-year-old Brit faces eight criminal counts, up from the previous six, that included grooming teenage victims as young as 14 years old.
While the U.S. government initially charged Maxwell over her involvement with Epstein during the mid-1990s, the expanded time range under the second superseding indictment alleges sex trafficking from 2001 to 2004. Maxwell is accused of roping a fourth underage girl into Epstein’s sphere of abuse during this time.
Making her first in-person court appearance since her July 2020 arrest, Maxwell wore light blue prison garb with a white Covid face mask. Adhering to the Southern District of New York’s pandemic protocol, she communicated with defense attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim and Jeffrey S. Pagliuca, using a black telephone-style handset rather than huddling at the table.
Maxwell’s trial was set to begin on July 12, but her attorneys are seeking to postpone because of the newly added counts.
A Manhattan grand jury returned the new indictment March 29, adding to previous counts that include perjury, for Maxwell’s allegedly lying under oath during a 2016 deposition taken in connection with a civil defamation suit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan granted Maxwell’s motion for severance and a separate trial of the two perjury counts.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 at a 156-acre estate in New Hampshire, nearly a year to the day that sex-trafficking charges landed Epstein, whom she dated for a time, in the jail cell where he would be found dead one month later.
Maxwell is being held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Complex in Brooklyn, after Judge Nathan denied her bid to be released to home confinement on a $28.5 million bail as security.
The Second Circuit will hear oral arguments on Maxwell’s appeal of that decision next Monday.
Her attorneys allege that conditions at the Brooklyn jail — including suicide watch, intrusive searches, and inadequate food — have caused her to “lose weight, her hair, and her ability to concentrate.”
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York alleged in the latest indictment that Epstein’s employees, including Maxwell, would call victims to schedule an appointment for the victim to massage Epstein at his residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
“When a victim initially arrived at the Palm Beach residence,” the superseding indictment states, “she would be greeted by an employee of Epstein’s, including, at times,” Maxwell.
According to prosecutors, the victim would then be escorted to a room with a massage table and would provide a nude or semi-nude massage for Epstein, who would typically also be naked and would “escalate the nature and scope of the physical contact to include sex acts,” like groping victims, masturbating and using sex toys.
Maxwell is accused of paying victims hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters, and of facilitating Epstein’s access to minor victims “knowing that he had a sexual preference for underage girls,” the indictment says. In the superseding indictment, prosecutors also say that Maxwell on multiple occasions sent the fourth underage victim gifts on Epstein’s behalf, including lingerie, from an address in Manhattan to her home in Florida.
Maxwell is accused of encouraging the fourth victim to recruit other young women to be abused by Epstein.
When the victim brought in new recruits to give Epstein sexual massages, both would be paid, court documents say.
Maxwell’s attorneys asked to hold today’s arraignment in-person after a previous remote conference was hijacked and illegally streamed by apparent followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The hearing Friday at the federal courthouse in Manhattan was attended by members of Maxwell’s family, as well as alleged victims and their lawyers.