December 9, 2021

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After COVID scare, Ghislaine Maxwell expected to seek bail

Jeffrey Epstein’s onetime romantic partner and alleged sex trafficking accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell is expected to renew her request to be released on bail, which was originally denied after she was arrested in July.

Maxwell has been housed since then in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, as she awaits trial on four charges of sexual trafficking of a minor and two counts of perjury.

The revelation came in a letter filed by federal prosecutors Wednesday who said they anticipated Maxwell would make the request in a private meeting she had requested with prosecutors before U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan.

They opposed having the meeting in private because it would shut out Maxwell’s accusers.

Maxwell was placed in quarantine on Nov. 18 after coming into contact with someone in the Brooklyn detention center who tested positive for COVID-19. Maxwell tested negative at the time and it isn’t clear whether she is still in quarantine.

Maxwell’s lawyers had originally argued that she should be granted bail in part because of concerns about COVID-19.

They have also argued that her detention makes it difficult to mount a suitable defense in the case, which is expected to go to trial in July 2021. They had proposed, instead, that Maxwell await her trial in the comfort of a New York luxury hotel.

Maxwell was denied bail because of concerns that her access to seemingly endless funds and foreign passports — including to France, which doesn’t extradite French citizens — made her a flight risk.

Maxwell’s conditions in detention have been a recent subject of contention. Her lawyers have sought to compel the warden of the MDC to address in court Maxwell’s conditions, which include constant surveillance, even when she leaves her cell, and being awakened every 15 minutes at night.

Maxwell’s surveillance is due in part to Epstein’s death in custody last year. He was found hanging by the neck in his cell in the Manhattan Correctional Center in August 2019, one month after he had been arrested on new sex charges following renewed scrutiny — after the Herald’s Perversion of Justice series — of Epstein’s remarkably lenient sentence on sex abuse charges more than a decade earlier. The death was termed a suicide.

Federal prosecutors have disputed Maxwell’s claims that her conditions hinder her ability to mount a suitable defense, pointing out that she gets more time to review potential evidence than any other inmate in her facility.

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Ben Wieder is a data reporter in McClatchy’s Washington bureau. He worked previously at the Center for Public Integrity and Stateline. His work has been honored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, National Press Foundation, Online News Association and Association of Health Care Journalists.

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