Ghislaine Maxwell Pleads Not Guilty in Epstein Sex Trafficking Ring Charges

Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Mark Mainz/Getty Images

A federal judge denied bail to Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls in the financier’s sex-trafficking scheme.

On Tuesday afternoon, Maxwell appeared at the arraignment, initial scheduling conference and bail hearing remotely via video conference from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. She pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan set Maxwell’s trial for July 12, 2021 and said that given Maxwell’s significant wealth and foreign connections, “no combination of conditions could reasonably ensure her presence at court. The risks are too great.”

Assistant U.S. prosecutor Alison Moe argued the 58-year-old British socialite has “the ability and willingness to live off the grid indefinitely” and wasn’t candid with the court or a pretrial services officer about her financial means, listing less than $1 million in her accounts and zero monthly income. “She has not earned the court’s trust,” Moe said.

Moe said that Maxwell proposed to stay at a luxury hotel in Manhattan upon release but provided no detailed accounting of her finances.

But Maxwell’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, said his client has been “the target of endless media spin” and is being portrayed as a “monster” by both the press and the government.

Cohen argued Maxwell has proven she’s not a flight risk because she stayed in the country after Epstein’s arrest and has litigated civil cases, brought by accusers, in the district since 2015. He said Maxwell’s legal team has been in contact with the government eight to 10 times in the last year and would have surrendered her to prevent the New Hampshire bust. (Moe disagreed, telling the court Maxwell’s contacts with the feds “have not been substantial” and didn’t include information on her whereabouts.)

“When you take off the spin and take off the media, there’s no case,” Cohen said.

Judge Nathan disagreed, saying the nature of the alleged crime weighs in favor of detention, and that Maxwell has demonstrated sophistication in hiding her finances and herself in several locations throughout New England.

Maxwell was arrested July 2 at a luxurious New Hampshire hideaway she’d purchased for nearly $1 million in cash last December, while allegedly dodging the feds. 

She faces four counts related to child sex trafficking and two counts of perjury in a bust that came a year after Epstein’s own arrest on a New Jersey tarmac. The charges relate to incidents involving three victims as young as 14, between 1994 and 1997. If convicted, Maxwell could spend 35 years behind bars.

According to the indictment, Maxwell recruited and groomed underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse. Prosecutors say she befriended the victims first, asking about school and their families, and took them on outings that included movies or shopping trips. “Maxwell’s presence during minor victims’ interactions with Epstein, including interactions where the minor victim was undressed or that involved sex acts with Epstein, helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present,” the indictment states.

Ghislaine Maxwell Foolishly Tried to ‘Evade Detection’ by Wrapping Cell Phone in Foil: Prosecutors

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that Maxwell’s trial would take about two weeks, including another week set aside for jury selection.

Moe said discovery in the case would include search warrant returns, subpoena returns including business records, photographs and searches from electronic devices. It also will include prior investigative files from the FBI, relating to Epstein’s 2007 criminal case in the Southern District of Florida. 

When Judge Nathan asked if the government expected additional defendants or charges in their probe, Moe replied that the investigation was ongoing but “at this point, we do not anticipate seeking a superseding indictment.”

Two victims shared comments at Tuesday’s bail hearing. Moe read a statement from one victim, identified only as Jane Doe, who said she’s known Maxwell for more than a decade. The woman claimed Maxwell’s “calculating and sadistic manipulation” led her into the hands of Epstein. “Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not do what he did,” the woman stated.

Jane Doe said she feared that if released, Maxwell could silence anyone testifying in the criminal case, and that Maxwell’s international connections would allow her to evade justice—or help to ensure that witnesses disappear.

Another victim, Annie Farmer, read a statement of her own: “I met Ghislaine Maxwell when I was 16 years old. She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women. She has never showed any remorse for her heinous crimes or the devastating, lasting affects her actions caused.”

Farmer added that Maxwell “has associates across the globe, some of great means and is a significant flight risk.”

“We may never know how many people were victimized by Ghislaine Maxwell but those of us who survived implore this court to detain her until she is forced to stand trial and answer for her crimes,” Farmer concluded.

In a court filing last week, Maxwell’s attorneys argued the media was “wrongly trying to substitute her for Epstein” after his jailhouse suicide in August 2019. They claimed she’d had no contact with the financier for more than a decade—though The Daily Beast reported civil court filings reveal they emailed each other as recently as 2015.

“But sometimes the simplest point is the most critical one: Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” her lawyers wrote, adding, “Ms. Maxwell vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.”

They argued Maxwell should be granted bail because she’s not flight risk and “has been in regular contact with the government, through counsel, since Epstein’s arrest.” (Prosecutors claim Maxwell tried to run from them when they arrived to arrest her, and that she’d wrapped her cell phone in tinfoil, apparently to evade government detection.) 

“She did not flee, but rather left the public eye, for the entirely understandable purpose of protecting herself and those close to her from the crush of media and online attention and its very real harms—those close to her have suffered the loss of jobs, work opportunities, and reputational damage simply for knowing her,” the lawyers alleged.

Maxwell’s attorneys also argued she’s not a danger to the community and that she’s at risk for contracting COVID-19 while in custody at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, which saw a few dozen coronavirus cases.

The lawyers proposed bail conditions for Maxwell including a $5 million bond, co-signed by six people including two of Maxwell’s sisters, and secured by a $3.75 million property in the U.K.; travel restricted to the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York; and home confinement at a New York residence with electronic GPS monitoring.

Maxwell also claimed the criminal case is “subject to significant challenges” in light of Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement, which was secretly inked in Florida in 2008 and shielded “any potential co-conspirators” of the financier from prosecution.

On Monday, prosecutors replied that Maxwell didn’t deserve any “special treatment,” and argued Epstein’s plea deal doesn’t bind prosecutors in New York.

“For years before her arrest in this case, [Maxwell] likely believed she had gotten away with her crimes. That illusion has now been shattered, and she has a host of new reasons to use her considerable resources to flee,” the feds stated in a pleading supporting her detention.

The government argued Maxwell posed a flight risk, in part because of her tremendous wealth and her French citizenship, which would prevent her extradition. Her pleading, they added, failed to indicate the identities of her bail co-signers or their assets, where she planned to live in New York’s Southern District, or even a rundown of her own assets.

Prosecutors said the British heiress failed to provide financial information, despite allegedly having access to more than $20 million across at least a dozen bank accounts since 2016. “To the extent [Maxwell] now refuses to account for her ownership of or access to vast wealth, it is not because it does not exist—it is because she is attempting to hide it,” prosecutors wrote.

“She does not have a job that would tie her to the United States, much less the Southern District of New York, and she does not appear to depend on any job—or to have depended on any employment in the past 30 years—for the privileged lifestyle she has maintained for the entirety of that period,” the government stated. “[Maxwell] clearly has the means to flee.”

The feds also hinted at the strength of their case, saying victims’ testimony is corroborated by other witnesses and documentary evidence including diary entries, flight records and business records. They said they’ve “been in touch with additional individuals who have expressed a willingness to provide information” on Maxwell, and that “has the potential to make the government’s case even stronger.”

The government’s filing disclosed more details on Maxwell’s alleged hideout, too. 

When FBI agents arrived at the Bradford estate, they discovered the property was blocked off by a locked gate and monitored by a private security guard. The guard allegedly told authorities that Maxwell’s brother hired a security firm staffed with former members of the British military to take shifts guarding her New England home.

“Through a window, the agents saw [Maxwell] ignore the direction to open the door and, instead, try to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her,” the pleading states. 

“Agents were ultimately forced to breach the door in order to enter the house to arrest [Maxwell], who was found in an interior room in the house.” 

“Moreover, as the agents conducted a security sweep of the house, they also noticed a cell phone wrapped in tin foil on top of a desk, a seemingly misguided effort to evade detection, not by the press or public, which of course would have no ability to trace her phone or intercept her communications, but by law enforcement.”

On Tuesday, Moe said Maxwell’s opulent lifestyle and the financial assets she listed for the court don’t add up. 

Maxwell was allegedly not very forthcoming, telling pretrial services that her New Hampshire property was owned by a corporation, whose name she didn’t know, and that she was allowed to live in the sprawling estate.

Moe also indicated she spoke with an FBI agent who interviewed Maxwell’s real estate agent for the property. According to the officer, the buyers for Maxwell’s home introduced themselves as “Scott and Jen Marshall” and both had British accents.

The man claimed he was retired from the British military and wanted to write a book, while the woman said she was a journalist who wanted privacy, Moe said.

For his part, Cohen tried tossing water on the government’s claims that Maxwell was in hiding and decried prosecutors for trying to “throw dirt on our client.”

Cohen said the front door was unlocked, and that Maxwell ran into an interior room because she was in her pajamas when authorities appeared at her doorstep. 

As for the tinfoil-wrapped phone, Cohen argued Maxwell’s device had been hacked and she was preserving it as required as part of civil litigation.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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