MANHATTAN (CN) — The New York federal judge who presided over Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal sex trafficking trial refused on Friday to grant the convicted British socialite a retrial over a juror’s omissions during jury selection.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December on five of six criminal counts for her involvement with trafficking underage girls for sexual abuse by pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.
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.
“The Court finds Juror 50 testified credibly at the hearing,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan wrote in a 40-page filing made public Friday afternoon. “There are many reasons for that finding. He appeared to testify frankly and honestly, even when the answers he gave were the cause of personal embarrassment and regret. His incentive at the hearing was to testify truthfully or face criminal perjury charges. His tone, demeanor, and responsiveness gave no indication of false testimony,” she wrote, denying Maxwell's motion for a new trial.
Identified in several articles after the trial 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.
Maxwell’s attorneys contended that Scotty David’s presence on the jury violated her Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury.
Judge Nathan called Juror 50 to testify at a post-trial evidentiary hearing last month.
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 him.
“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 was granted immunity by the Department of Justice just prior to evidentiary hearing testimony.
Judge Nathan acknowledged that the juror’s hurried handling of the questionnaire led to some mistakes, but the judge wrote in her opinion that he was not biased and she remained “confident that the failure to disclose was not deliberate.”
Scotty David’s past personal experience with childhood sexual abuse has not rendered him to be an unfair or impartial juror, the judge concluded.
“This Court has presided over a murder trial in which a juror who had a family member murdered was not struck for cause,” the opinion states. “So too victims of fraud serve faithfully in fraud trials and individuals who have been discriminated against serve fairly in discrimination cases. And survivors of rape have and can serve impartially in trials charging the crime of rape.”
Judge Nathan was confirmed last week by vote of 49-47 as a United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit, making her the second openly gay woman to serve as a federal circuit court judge.
Nathan has served as a judge for the Southern District of New York since 2011 and previously worked as a special counsel to the Solicitor General of New York.
Maxwell’s sentencing is scheduled for June.
Representatives for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday evening.
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