Friday, June 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ghislaine Maxwell Seeks Trial Delay in Wake of New Charges

With trial for Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend set to begin three months from now, her attorneys called the late-breaking escalation of the case an example of "obvious tactical gamesmanship."

MANHATTAN (CN) — The government’s new charges against Ghislaine Maxwell this week are “an abuse of power,” attorneys for the British heiress wrote in a biting letter seeking to postpone her July trial and have her released from pretrial imprisonment.

Prosecutors added to the federal charges against Maxwell on Monday. In addition to more than tripling the timeline of when Maxwell purportedly helped her ex-boyfriend, the late billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, recruit victims into a sex ring, the government added one new count of sex-trafficking conspiracy and another saying that she trafficked a minor for sex.

"In addition to expanding a three-year conspiracy to 10 years, the government has added two serious charges that drastically change the focus of this case,” Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim wrote in the 3-page letter Wednesday evening. “That the government has made this move late in the game – with trial set for July 12th – is obvious tactical gamesmanship."

Maxwell, 59, now faces eight counts, up from the previous six, related to her alleged involvement in sex ring, which included victims as young as 14 years old.  She faces a maximum statutory sentence of 40 years on a new sex-trafficking count alone.

“Adding charges that were never launched against Jeffrey Epstein based on evidence that was in the government’s possession for years is shocking, unfair, and an abuse of power,” Sternheim wrote.

The letter says the government’s failure to turn over basic discovery materials concerning the new accusers “has effectively prevented trial preparation from moving forward in an orderly manner.”

In consideration of delaying the trial, Maxwell’s attorney proposed that U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan reconsider keeping the defendant at a Brooklyn detention center rather than home confinement.

“The Court has the power — and, indeed, the discretion — to accommodate this constitutional clash,” Maxwell’s attorney wrote.

“Granting a continuance and releasing Ms. Maxwell on the most restrictive conditions of home detention," the letter continues. "Surely, the court can impose conditions that ‘clip her wings’ and satisfy perceived flight concerns without keeping Ms. Maxwell locked in a BOP cage."

Judge Nathan has repeatedly denied Maxwell's bids to be released from solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Complex — the latest of which proposed a $28.5 million bail as security, plus Maxwell giving up her dual citizenships in France and the U.K.

The latest proposal says that, "in light of media coverage,” Maxwell seeks an in-person arraignment instead of a remote proceeding, as well as a bail hearing that would include witness testimony concerning the purported strength of the government’s case.

Previous charges against Maxwell concern involvement during the mid-1990s. The time range is now expanded to include activity from 2001 to 2004, during which Maxwell is accused of roping a fourth underage girl into Epstein’s sex-trafficking scheme.

A Manhattan grand jury returned the 24-page second superseding indictment on Monday, adding to previous counts that include perjury, for Maxwell’s allegedly lying under oath during a 2016 deposition.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York say that Epstein’s employees, including Maxwell, would call victims to schedule an appointment for the victim to massage Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, residence. 

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.

Arrested in July 2020 at a 156-acre estate in New Hampshire, Maxwell is said to have, at times, participated in the alleged sex acts herself. 

Documents unsealed last month showed that her attorneys intend to seek immunity for the British socialite by invoking Epstein’s nonprosecution agreement from 2006. 

The Epstein scandal has implicated a number of high-profile and rich individuals — including Prince Andrew and Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz — with having had sex with underage victims at Epstein’s private island and other properties.

Epstein was already a convicted pedophile when he was arrested again in July 2019 after new evidence came forth alleging that he had paid underage girls for massages, then molested and raped them. Under the terms of the 2008 federal nonprosecution agreement that Epstein reached in Florida, the financier pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. That allowed him to avert a possible life sentence, instead serving 13 months in a work-release program. He was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.

Epstein's lawyers argued that the deal would prohibit him from being charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for alleged sex trafficking of girls from 2002 through 2005.

New York federal prosecutors disputed that defense, but Epstein's death in prison a month after his arrest left the issue unresolved. Epstein’s death in his jail cell was ruled a suicide.

Categories:Civil Rights, Criminal, Entertainment

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.