Ghislaine Maxwell lawyers argue she should have been protected by Epstein deal as she makes bid for freedom

Ghislaine Maxwell, 62, was found guilty in 2021 of recruiting and grooming teenagers for sexual abuse by the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Andrea Cavallier,Mike Bedigan
Tuesday 12 March 2024 22:20 GMT
Maxwell was protected under non-prosecution agreement, argues lawyer

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Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell argued that the disgraced British socialite should have been protected by a deal Jeffrey Epstein made years ago as they made a bid for her freedom in a New York courtroom on Tuesday.

Maxwell, 62, returned to the spotlight this week as her defence team launched an appeal over her sex trafficking conviction.

In December 2021, Maxwell was found guilty of recruiting and grooming four teenagers for sexual abuse by the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was her boyfriend at the time. He died by suicide in prison in 2019 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial.

Now, her lawyers are fighting to overturn the conviction for the former socialite, who is currently housed at the Federal Correctional Institution Tallahassee, Florida. She is eligible for release in July 2037.

During an appeal hearing in New York federal court on Tuesday, Diana Fabi Samson – one of the attorneys representing Maxwell – referenced the 2008 non-prosecution agreement, made by state prosecutors with Epstein in Florida.

Ms Samson told a three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals that not honouring the terms of the agreement would “strike a dagger in the heart of the trust between the government and its citizens.”

Maxwell was not present in the courtroom but was reportedly listening remotely from her jail cell in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ghislaine Maxwell during her arraignment in 2020. She was not present in the courtroom for her appeal hearing on Tuesday, but was reportedly listening remotely from her jail cell in Tallahassee, Florida
Ghislaine Maxwell during her arraignment in 2020. She was not present in the courtroom for her appeal hearing on Tuesday, but was reportedly listening remotely from her jail cell in Tallahassee, Florida (Reuters)

Ms Samson argued that Maxwell should not have been prosecuted in 2019, as she was protected by provisions from a prior non-prosecution agreement (NPA) made by Florida prosecutors with Epstein.

The deal was made by former federal prosecutor Alex Acosta and resulted in a jail sentence and a sex offender registration for the disgraced financier.

Under the 2008 NPA, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. That allowed him to avert a possible life sentence, instead serving 13 months in a work-release program. He was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.

Epstein was later charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for nearly identical allegations in 2019.

“In the end, Ms Maxwell was prosecuted for crimes that she as a third party beneficiary to the plea agreement in Florida should not have been prosecuted,” Ms Samson said.

“The central promise in the non-prosecution agreement is a promise by the Southern District of Florida not to prosecute Epstein in that district,” Assistant US Attorney Andrew Rohrbach responded.

“This is a document entered into by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida intended to bind the Southern District of Florida and that district alone.”

Ms Samson was only given 10 minutes for the defence arguments. She was also expected to argue, as detailed in her written argument, that her client did not get a fair trial because, among other things, one of the jurors, Scotty David, failed to disclose in his juror questionnaire that he is a survivor of sexual abuse.

But her allotted time for defence arguments ended at 10 minutes.

It was a 2021 interview journalist Lucia Osborne-Crowley conducted with Mr David, known as Juror 50, published in The Independent in the weeks following the Maxwell sex-trafficking verdict that led her legal team to appeal over her conviction.

But Tuesday’s hearing ended without any mention of Juror 50.

One of Maxwell’s attorneys, Arthur Aidala later addressed the issue of an “impartial juror” outside court.

Maxwell lawyer addresses juror who failed to disclose he was the victim of sexual abuse

Mr Aidala said that the failure of Mr David to disclose he had been the victim of sexual assault was “wrong” and that the juror had “totally misrepresented the truth”.

“What’s worse is after the fact he goes on national television and says what a big role he played in the jury, basically acting as an expert witness to explain some of the flaws in the prosecution’s case and speaking in his capacity as a victim of a sexual act.

“That is absolutely verboten. It’s wrong. And although the judge had a hearing, and he acknowledged he wasn’t accurate at all she said, ‘well, I think he made an honest mistake by not checking off that box so I’m going to let the verdict stand’.”

Mr Aidala continued: “If we allow that to happen in the United States of America, each and every one of us are in jeopardy, because it could be your father, your uncle, your aunt, your cousin who’s on trial, and you really want someone who’s sitting in the jury box who’ve been so afflicted by something so similar, in that they cannot be fair and impartial.

“It’s all about being fair. And there are certain things that could happen in one’s life that makes you unable to be fair and impartial. And that was the case in Ghislaine Maxwell’s jury box. And [Mr David] admits that he played a heavy role in there.

“On that grounds the case would cause the case to be reversed to go back to a new trial,” he added.

Mr Aidala said the case should be “dismissed”, adding: “If we allow the government to make deals with the citizens with us, and then they decide, for whatever reason, they’re going to rip up that room and rip up that deal, that handshake means nothing.”

Maxwell, the daughter of the media tycoon Robert Maxwell, had once lived life as one of Britain’s most well-connected socialites, mingling with US presidents, royalty and celebrities.

She now spends her days holed up in a cell in Florida, having been transferred from the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York since her arrest.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers said she should have been protected by a deal Jeffrey Epstein made years ago
Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers said she should have been protected by a deal Jeffrey Epstein made years ago (PA Media)

Her lawyers made a number of complaints that conditions at the Brooklyn jail were “reprehensible” and that she had been deprived of water, had raw sewage entering her cell and been placed under invasive surveillance.

She had requested to serve her sentence at the minimum security prison FCI Danbury in Connecticut but the Bureau of Prisons ultimately decided to place her in the Florida jail given the nature of her offences.

Over the course of the late 1990s and early 2000s, she helped lure and recruit a number of underage girls to work for the US billionaire, only for them to be forced to give sexual massages and allegedly abused by his associates.

Following a ruling by US judge Loretta Preska in December, documents relating to more than 170 people who were friends or acquaintances of the disgraced financier have been made public.

Among them are two former US presidents – Donald Trump and Bill Clinton – and Prince Andrew, all three of whom have been pictured with and known to associate with the disgraced financier in the past.

Other names include lawyer Alan Dershowitz, magician David Copperfield, Michael Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

However, being identified through the court documents does not mean that the individual was involved in or aware of any wrongdoing by Epstein.

Mugshot of British convicted sex offender and former socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, taken at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn
Mugshot of British convicted sex offender and former socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, taken at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn (Federal Bureau of Prisons)

The files also detail the relationship between Maxwell and Epstein, who had previously been described as his “partner in crime”.

Ghislaine Maxwell is one of the names that features the most, appearing more than 1000 times in the first five batches of documents.

This is due to the files being part of a 2015 US defamation case by Virginia Giuffre against her, though the name “Maxwell” appears still more, sometimes in reference to legal matters and footnotes.

References to Maxwell were made throughout the documents, with various other witnesses being asked about her involvement with Epstein in their separate testimonies.

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