In a socially distanced, pin-drop-quiet Manhattan federal courtroom on Friday, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty to a pair of new sex-trafficking charges—and waved to her sister who watched from the gallery.
The arraignment marked the second time reporters caught a glimpse of Maxwell, who slowly walked into court in her prison blues and white COVID mask. Her dark hair was down and gray roots were growing at the top. As soon as she sat at the defense table, she took a long drink out of a bottle of water.
Reporters waited hours to spot Maxwell in what was only a minutes-long hearing.
Before the arraignment began, a woman who appeared to be Ghislaine’s sister, Isabel Maxwell, was whisked into the courtroom wearing a black beret, tinted shades, mask and coat. She took notes on a small notepad once she took her seat.
Judge Alison Nathan asked Maxwell if she read the indictment and if she had time to review it with her attorney. “Yes, your honor,” Maxwell replied softly. Her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim then confirmed Maxwell pleaded not guilty.
After discussion about discovery timelines in the case, the hearing was over. Maxwell, who appeared slim but not in poor health as her lawyers have charged, looked to Isabel, tapped below her eye and waved before she was slowly led away.
Meanwhile, Nathan told the courtroom she was still mulling whether to adjourn Maxwell’s trial until next year but instructed the defense and prosecution, for now, to plan for the scheduled July trial date.
Also in the gallery were lawyers Sigrid McCawley and David Boies, who represent more than a dozen Epstein victims. An accuser named Danielle Bensky sat with them to see the proceeding, though she is not a minor victim in the Maxwell case. After the arraignment, Boies told reporters it’s important for victims to have the opportunity to show the court how important this prosecution is to them.
Boies told a Beast reporter that survivors of Epstein’s abuse want to see Maxwell’s trial “proceed as rapidly as it can, as long as it’s fair.”
“They want the trial as quickly as possible,” Boies said. “This case has gone on far too long. The length of time this subject matter existed is now decades. I think all of the survivors are anxious to have it finished.”
Marshals told The Daily Beast that Maxwell was brought in early Friday morning, before the crowds of protesters arrived at the courthouse. By midday, throngs of people outside waved banners (“Epstein is the worst kind of virus”) and one woman showed off her ‘Virginia Giuffre’ jacket.
Maxwell’s lawyer David Oscar Markus told reporters that the British socialite is “hanging in there” and added, “All we want is a fair fight.”
Friday’s hearing marked the second time the public got a view of Maxwell since her arrest. At her arraignment last July, the British socialite shed tears when U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan denied her bail because she was a “substantial” flight risk.
Since then, Maxwell’s lawyers have pushed for her release from Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where they claim she’s “withering to a shell of her former self,” forced to drink foul tap water and was once allegedly manhandled by a guard. After Nathan thrice denied Maxwell’s requests for bail, her lawyers turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which will hear oral arguments on Monday.
For their part, federal prosecutors denied Maxwell was being mistreated in jail. In a recent letter to the judge, the government said video footage refuted Maxwell’s claims of physical abuse and that guards had to remind her to flush her toilet and clean her “very dirty” cell.
Maxwell’s family has also launched a gushing website as part of their public-relations campaign to garner sympathy for the embattled jet-setter. The site claims Maxwell has received “hundreds of beautiful and supportive letters from strangers” while incarcerated and that “her spirit is strong and she remains undaunted.”
While Maxwell wasn’t charged in connection to Epstein’s sex ring until last year, civil lawsuits filed by victims have named her as a facilitator of the creepy financier’s abuse. Maxwell has long denied any involvement in Epstein’s scheme.
The FBI arrested Maxwell at her New Hampshire hideaway on July 2, 2020, one year after Epstein was indicted for trafficking underage girls. Epstein killed himself in jail a month after his arrest, shifting the focus of the investigation to Maxwell.
The 59-year-old heiress initially faced four trafficking-related counts—including enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts—and two counts of perjury stemming from her 2016 deposition in a civil suit filed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges Epstein and Maxwell exploited her and kept her as their “sex slave” for years.
According to the original indictment, Maxwell groomed three girls as young as 14 for Epstein between 1994 and 1997. She allegedly befriended the victims and facilitated their abuse at Epstein’s mansions in New York, Florida and New Mexico, and her London townhouse. “Having developed a rapport with a victim,” the indictment states, “Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein.”
The complaint adds: “In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims.”
Last month, the feds added two more charges against Maxwell and a fourth minor victim to their case. The latest superseding indictment alleges Maxwell trafficked a 14-year-old girl for Epstein from 2001 to 2004. Prosecutors claim Maxwell paid the teen hundreds of dollars in cash, encouraged her to recruit other underage “masseuses” for Epstein, and sent her “gifts, including lingerie, from an address in Manhattan” to her Florida home.
Maxwell now faces 80 years behind bars, if convicted.
Her lawyers have asked to postpone her July trial until early 2022.
Nathan ruled last week that Maxwell would be tried separately for the perjury counts sometime after she faces a jury for the trafficking charges.
At Maxwell’s arraignment last summer, two victims shared statements with the court and asked the judge to keep Maxwell behind bars pending trial.
One assistant U.S. attorney read the words of Jane Doe, who said, “Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did. She was in charge. She egged him on and encouraged him. She told me of others she recruited and she thought it was funny.”
“I have fear speaking here today, even anonymously,” Doe said, adding: “I know what she has done. I know how many lives that she has ruined. And because I know this, I know she has nothing to lose, has no remorse, and will never admit what she has done.”
Source by www.thedailybeast.com