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Judge OKs some loaded language in last stop for Ghislaine Maxwell before trial

Once trial begins on Nov. 29, prosecutors have free rein to refer to the underage girls abused in Jeffrey Epstein’s international pedophile sex ring as “minor victims.”

MANHATTAN (CN) — Ghislaine Maxwell failed to sway a federal judge Monday that it would prejudge her in the eyes of the jury if the government can refer to the underage girls she is accused of recruiting for Jeffrey Epstein as "minor victims."

Maxwell, 59, was arrested in July 2020, nearly a year to the day that sex-trafficking charges landed her longtime associate Jeffrey Epstein, with whom she was once romantically linked, in the Manhattan jail cell where the 66-year old financier would be found dead one month later.

She faces eight criminal counts in the Southern District of New York, including allegations that she groomed teenage victims as young as 14 years old for sexual abuse by Epstein for a decade between 1994 and 2004.

Maxwell's upcoming trial, expected to take six weeks and kick off in two with jury selection, is set to begin opening arguments at the end of month on Monday, Nov. 29.

This Monday, she appeared in court for the first time since her April arraignment where she pleaded not guilty. Clad in prison garb for the latest proceeding, which ran for about 3 1/2 hours, Maxwell sat a courtroom desk with her defense attorneys Bobbi Sternheim, Jeffrey Pagliuca and Laura Menninger.

They had argued in pretrial filings that allowing the prosecution to use words like “victims” and “minor victims” would eroded Maxwell's presumption of innocence and would lessen the government’s burden of proof.

The defense requested instead that all persons be referred to by their individual names, but U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan turned them down. The Obama-appointed judge also granted prosecutors’ request for witnesses to testify using pseudonyms, which Maxwell's defense had similarly opposed.

Additionally Monday, Judge Nathan ruled to exclude evidence of the nonprosecution agreement that arose from a 2007 plea deal Epstein reached in Florida with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, before the prosecutor became President Donald Trump's labor secretary.

The secretive, lenient deal let Epstein plead guilty to state charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. Drawing heavy criticism and litigation when its details were finally exposed, the agreement allowed Epstein to serve 13 months in a work-release program, make payments to victims and register as a sex offender instead of potentially serving a life sentence.  

Judge Nathan previously ruled the nonprosecution agreement reached with the Southern District of Florida, which was approved by senior levels of Main Justice, does not shield Maxwell from prosecution in the Southern District of New York.

“The NPA does not purport to immunize Epstein from liability for crimes committed before the period that was the subject of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation,” she wrote in April. “Maxwell’s protection is no broader.”

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 jail cell death a month after his arrest left the issue unresolved.

Judge Nathan additionally ruled on Monday to exclude from trial emails that appear to show Maxwell arranging “dates” between Epstein and non-minors, finding that they are not relevant to the crimes charged, which involve minors.

Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Complex in Brooklyn, after a bid to be released to home confinement, on a $28.5 million bail as security, was denied by U.S. District Judge Nathan.

A Manhattan grand jury returned a new indictment in March, 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.

A month later, Judge Nathan granted Maxwell’s motion for severance and a separate trial of the two perjury counts.

Prospective jurors will fill out questionnaires later in the week before they are called for oral questioning beginning on Nov. 16. Opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 29.

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Categories / Criminal, Environment, Trials

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