Maxwell Seeks Immunity From Sex-Trafficking Charges Under Epstein Deal

Jeffrey Epstein’s lenient nonprosecution agreement in 2007 allowed the pedophile financier to defer federal charges and instead plead guilty to a lesser charge that saved him from what could have been a life sentence. 

This photo of Jeffrey Epstein embracing Ghislaine Maxwell was included in the Maxwell’s federal indictment filed Thursday in New York. (Credit: SDNY via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Newly public filings from the sex-trafficking case against Ghislaine Maxwell show that the accused Jeffrey Epstein co-conspirator is seeking to snuff out her prosecution by invoking a clause of Epstein’s 14-year-old nonprosecution agreement.

Maxwell’s attorney Mark Cohen laid out the arguments in a Jan. 25 filing that only unsealed Thursday night. It says the government and state authorities investigated Epstein thoroughly in 2006 for alleged conduct that is “essentially identical” to the conduct alleged in Maxwell’s indictment but did not bring charges against her in the two decades following the mid-1990s offenses.   

Cohen notes that Epstein’s prosecution was resolved by a 2007 nonprosecution agreement with then U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta that was “approved by senior levels of Main Justice.”

Though the unearthing of that NPA over a decade later was a scandal for Acosta, who by then was in Trump administration, and the government writ large, Cohen says that the NPA nevertheless “is clear, explicit, and unambiguous.”

“The government ignores that the parties to the NPA clearly intended to confer a benefit on any and all of Epstein’s potential co-conspirators in explicitly giving them immunity,” the 38-page memorandum states.

When he ultimately pleaded guilty in 2008, Epstein served just 13 months in a work-release program that allowed him to leave his cell and spend his days in a business office. He was required to register as a sex offender and pay damages to two dozen victims. 

Taking another tack in a separate motion unsealed Thursday evening, Maxwell’s attorneys allege the indictment’s four sex trafficking claims are time-barred because the applicable statute of limitations expired five years after the alleged conduct. 

“Because Counts One through Four charge Ms. Maxwell with offenses that were completed no later than 1997, and because the indictment was not returned until July 2020, these counts are time-barred unless ‘otherwise expressly provided by law,’” the filing states. 

Maxwell’s attorneys claim the government’s retroactive exemption to the statute of limitation does not apply because it applies only to an “offense involving” the sexual or physical abuse or kidnapping of a child. 

The motions were part of a flurry of late-night filings two weeks ago. Among the four that were immediately public, Maxwell also sought to have counts of her indictment dismissed as multiplicitous violation of double jeopardy laws and because New York prosecutors used White Plains grand jury instead of a pool of jurors from the Manhattan district where she faces a trial. 

The 59-year-old British heiress and socialite denies the charges, which if proven carry a possible sentence of 35 years.  

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.  

After new evidence came forth alleging that the financier had paid underage girls for massages, then molested and raped them, he was arrested again in July 2019.  

Epstein’s lawyers argued that the NPA 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 the issue remained unresolved at the time of Epstein’s jail cell suicide in federal custody a month after his arrest. 

Acosta, who helped craft the 2007 plea deal that purported to immunize Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators, resigned as President Trump’s secretary of labor Alexander in July 2019 under a cloud of criticism spotlighting his role in the purported sweetheart deal.

In November 2020, the Justice Department reported that Acosta exhibited “poor judgment” in his handling of the generous 2007 plea deal for Epstein but did not commit professional misconduct.

Earlier this week, the fund set up to provide financial compensation to scores of women who say they were abused by Epstein when they were as young as 14, abruptly halted payouts over uncertain funding.

The estate says it has so far funded the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program with over $87 million to pay claimants and that over $55 million has been paid out. 

The fund, which operates independently of the estate was established with the aid Kenneth Feinberg, a well-known mediator who directed compensation funds for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and of clergy sex abuse within New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese.

According to the release from the fund, the program’s 150 claims to date have far exceeded expectations by double so far.

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