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A federal judge in New York dismissed multiple bids by Ghislaine Maxwell to have criminal charges against her thrown out, but agreed to try charges she faces related to the sex trafficking of minors separately from two perjury charges she also faces.
Maxwell, the ex-girlfriend of deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in July 2020 and accused of having recruited and groomed three girls abused by Epstein between 1994 and 1997, allegedly participating in the abuse of one of the girls herself.
She was also charged with perjury related to statements she made in 2016 depositions about her knowledge of Epstein’s abuse of girls. Those statements came in a defamation suit brought against her by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Last month, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Maxwell, adding a fourth victim, allegedly recruited, groomed and abused between 2001 and 2004, and adding two additional charges, including sex trafficking of a minor.
In agreeing to try the perjury charges in a separate trial, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan wrote she was concerned that trying the perjury charges together with the sex trafficking charges would risk an “unfair trial.” Her reasoning was it would potentially require lengthy discussion of sexual abuse allegations against Epstein, who has been accused of abusing hundreds of girls, and might result in one or more of her attorneys being called as witnesses, since some of them also represented her in the civil suit.
David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson, said the separation of the perjury charges didn’t strike a major blow to the government’s case against Maxwell.
“This does the least damage to them,” he said.
He said he thought the sex trafficking charges would likely go to trial first and that the perjury charges would likely go to trial only if Maxwell was acquitted of the sex trafficking charges.
Numerous victims have alleged that Maxwell recruited scores of girls for Epstein, scouring schools and spas under the guise that recruits would be giving Epstein a massage. She and Epstein were also accused of directing girls to have sex with their powerful friends, including British Prince Andrew, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz, among others. All the men have denied the claims, and Dershowitz and Giuffre have sued each other for slander.
Prosecutors say Maxwell’s alleged grooming of victims included befriending them and then normalizing the idea of sexual activity with him.
“Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference after Maxwell was arrested last year.
Nathan rejected Maxwell’s arguments that the initial indictment covered activity that was beyond the statute of limitations and not brought in a timely fashion and that the language used in the charges was too vague. She also rejected Maxwell’s argument that the indictment against her was unfair because it was delivered by a grand jury in White Plains, New York, not Manhattan, where the trial is scheduled, because White Plains is less diverse than Manhattan. The locale was shifted to White Plains because of COVID-19 concerns.
Nathan wrote that the new indictment filed by prosecutors last month essentially renders that last argument moot, since it was delivered by a Manhattan grand jury.
Nathan also rejected Maxwell’s argument that she was protected by a controversial non-prosecution agreement Epstein reached with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida in 2007. At the time, the agreement protected Epstein and several alleged co-conspirators from being federally charged in relation to the sexual abuse of several girls at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion.
Epstein’s remarkably lenient deal, which allowed him to plead guilty to two solicitation charges in state court and resulted in a 13-month stay in the county jail, during which he received work-release privileges, was the subject of the Miami Herald’s 2018 Perversion of Justice series.
That series led federal prosecutors to revisit Epstein’s crimes and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York brought new sex charges against Epstein in July 2019. He was found dead while in federal custody in New York one month later, a death that was deemed a suicide.
Maxwell was arrested nearly one year after the fresh charges were brought against Epstein, and documents unsealed Friday shed more light on the circumstances surrounding those charges.
In a 212-page rebuttal to Maxwell’s various attempts to have the charges against her dismissed or altered, the government defended the speed with which it brought charges against Maxwell, writing that two of the three alleged victims cited in Maxwell’s initial indictment came forward only after Epstein’s death in August 2019.
Maxwell’s trial is currently scheduled to begin July 12, although Maxwell’s lawyers recently asked for the trial to be pushed back by at least 90 days because of the new indictment and the additional complexity it adds to their preparation.
“The government has effectively added a brand new case on top of the existing case,” Maxwell attorney Bobbi C. Sternheim wrote in a letter Thursday.
Sternheim said that because of the challenges of coordinating among Maxwell’s defense attorneys they don’t anticipate they will be able to go to trial before January 2022.
She wrote that prosecutors currently estimate the trial will take at least four weeks and that the government has so far turned over more than 214,000 pictures and hundreds of hours of video as part of more than 2.4 million pages of potential evidence.