MANHATTAN (CN) — “I made an inadvertent mistake, one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” one of the jurors on the panel that convicted Ghislaine Maxwell in December explained in court Tuesday as a judge considers whether the error should spark a retrial for the disgraced British socialite.
Maxwell was convicted in late December, shortly after her 60th birthday, on five of six criminal counts in connection with recruiting and grooming teenage girls for sexual abuse by Epstein, the late pedophile financier she used to date.
A week after the verdict was returned, Maxwell’s attorneys demanded a retrial based on an article in The Independent that quoted a juror as saying he too was a victim of childhood sexual abuse but had omitted such history during in the jury-selection process.
Identified in the article by his first and middle names, Scotty David, and in court filings as Juror 50, the juror was the first to do media interviews after Maxwell's trial.
All potential jurors in the case had been asked to fill out a screening form in early November that asked: “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault? (This includes actual or attempted sexual assault or other unwanted sexual advance, including by a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member.)”
Scotty David checked “No.” He said in the interviews he flew through the questionnaire and didn’t remember being asked that question, which was No. 48 on the form.
“What is an accurate answer to that question,” U.S. District Judge Alison asked the juror directly Tuesday during an evidentiary hearing held this morning in connection with Maxwell’s motion for a retrial.
“Yes, for self,” the juror responded to judge from the plexiglass-walled witness box to her left. “I would have put I was abused as a child.”
Represented by New York defense attorney Todd Spodek, the juror explained that he was abused when he was 9 and 10 years old by a stepbrother and one of the stepbrother’s friends, but he never considered them to be family members.
“Why did you check no,” Judge Nathan asked on Tuesday morning.
“I didn’t see the part where it said ‘self,’” he responded, insisting he thought the question referred only to family members and friends.
“I completely skimmed way too fast. I was distracted by all the noise going on around me. I just wanted to get done with this,” he said. “They had audiovisual problems getting your video to play, so we literally sat there for three hours.”
The juror also told Judge Nathan he was reeling from a recent breakup during the questionnaire process and was “sitting with my feelings” without any distractions during the November questionnaire process.
During his November voir dire questioning from Judge Nathan, Juror 50 had said he recently taken down all of his social media accounts because of a painful fresh breakup.
“I do not feel that I am victim of a crime, even though, looking back on this abuse, that does make me a victim of a crime, which is why I should have marked yes for self,” he explained.
Late last night, prosecutors applied to offer the juror immunity in return for his testimony.
Judge Nathan granted the request at the start of Tuesday’s hearing. His lawyer said the juror would have invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege without it. As a result of that immunity agreement, he cannot be prosecuted for any truthful answers.
“If you don’t answer truthfully, you will be prosecuted for perjury,” Judge Nathan advised the juror on Tuesday.
Judge Nathan adjourned the hearing after 80 minutes without ruling on the motion for a retrial. She asked parties to submit post-trial briefs by next Tuesday, March 15.
Scotty David was quoted in the January article as explaining why he found all of the victim accusers’ testimony to be credible, despite attacks on their stories and memories from Maxwell’s defense attorneys.
“I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the color of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video,” Scotty told the Independent of his own experience. “But I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together,” he said, adding that he shared these insights with fellow jurors during deliberations.
Scotty claimed that, during Maxwell's trial, the Manhattan jury room went dead silent when he divulged his own personal story of sexual abuse after closing arguments in the case. He even credited his opening up about his own history of abuse as having helped other members of the jury to have faith in the women who testified against Maxwell.
The identities of the 12 jurors and five alternates were not released during Maxwell's monthlong trial in the Southern District of New York.
Out of a pool of over 600 New Yorkers who filled out juror questionnaires in early November, 231 prospective jurors returned to the Manhattan federal courthouse for in-person, direct questioning later that month to narrow down the eighteen jurors who were ultimately impaneled to hear the monthlong trial.
Judge Nathan allowed the jury selection to be viewed by the press and public from closed-circuit video-feeds at the courthouse.
Maxwell’s sentencing is scheduled for June.
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