Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers ask judge to vacate her guilty verdict on sex-trafficking charges

ghislaine maxwell trial
Defense lawyer Laura Menninger questions witness "Jane" during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the Jeffrey Epstein associate accused of sex trafficking, in a courtroom sketch in New York City, U.S., December 1, 2021.Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
  • Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers asked the judge overseeing her case to vacate her guilty verdict.

  • They argued the jury instructions and evidence in the child-sex-trafficking trial weren't fair.

  • The verdict is also in question because of a juror who may have lied on a juror form.

Attorneys for convicted child-sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell have asked the judge overseeing her case to vacate the jury's guilty verdict, arguing her trial in December wasn't fair.

The request to vacate the judgment is part of what will likely become a hard-fought appeals process. It comes even as the verdict hangs in the balance because of a separate issue: Whether one of the jurors lied in order to be on the jury deciding the case.

Maxwell's lawyers filed a motion in January asking US District Judge Alison Nathan to grant her a new trial after revelations about the juror. The motion was filed under seal, as Maxwell's lawyers argued that making them public would offer a "roadmap" to the juror to tailor his answers if Nathan hauled him into court to answer questions.

The juror said in media interviews after the trial that he was personally sexually abused as a child, and talked about his experience to persuade other jurors to come to a guilty verdict. The juror did not seem to have disclosed that experience on his juror form, which would have offered Maxwell's lawyers the opportunity to remove him from the jury pool. In December, the jury unanimously found Maxwell guilty of five of the six counts in the trial, concluding she trafficked girls to Jeffrey Epstein for sex and sexually abused some of them herself.

In an order Friday, Nathan ruled that Maxwell's lawyers' arguments should be narrowly tailored rather than remain under seal entirely.

Also on Friday, Maxwell's lawyers filed a lengthy legal memorandum that explains their arguments for vacating her guilty verdict. They argue that the charges Nathan gave jurors were too different from those in the original indictment, that the judge didn't properly respond to jury notes, that the three separate sex-trafficking conspiracy charges should have been folded into a single charge, and that some of the evidence in the trial came too late to be fairly considered.

Maxwell also faces a second trial, on perjury charges. Prosecutors say she lied in a deposition for a civil lawsuit when she said she wasn't aware of Epstein sexually abusing girls.

But prosecutors have said they're willing to drop those charges if the current verdict against Maxwell sticks. Maxwell, who is 60 years old, faces a sentence of up to 65 years in prison.

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