United Kingdom

Prosecutors defend newer charges against Ghislaine Maxwell

Prosecutors hope to preserve a July trial date for Ghislaine Maxwell by defending a late expansion of charges against her, saying they developed when a woman spoke after Maxwell´s arrest about her abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein in the early 2000s.

A rewritten indictment lodged against the 59-year-old British socialite last week added sex trafficking charges to allegations that Maxwell recruited three teenage girls from 1994 to 1997 for then-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. 

New charges stretched the conspiracy to 2004.

Mexwell's defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim called the new indictment 'shocking, unfair, and an abuse of power' in a letter penned to the judge last Wednesday.  

She claimed the charges were based on evidence prosecutors had in their possession for years.

'That the government has made this move late in the game - with trial set for July 12th - is obvious tactical gamesmanship,' Sternheim wrote. 

She said defense lawyers had not yet decided whether to ask to postpone the trial, but her letter suggested it was highly likely and would be further grounds for Maxwell's release on bail.

On Friday, prosecutors wrote to the judge saying they would oppose any delay of a trial set to occur almost exactly a year after Maxwell was arrested at a secluded New Hampshire home. 

Prosecutors hope to preserve a July trial date for Ghislaine Maxwell by defending a late expansion of charges against her.  The sex trafficking charges were added to her indictment last week after investigators spoke with a woman who claims she was forced to recruit young females to provide 'sexualized massages' to Jeffrey Epstein in the early 2000s. Maxwell and Epstein are pictured in 2005

Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, is pictured unveiling the initial indictment against Maxwell in July last year 

They said the timing of the new charges 'was dictated by developments in the Government´s ongoing investigation, not the nefarious motivations suggested by the defense.'

Prosecutors conceded that the woman whose claims led to the new charges was interviewed in 2007 during a probe of Epstein in Florida. But they said she did not agree to be interviewed in the government's current probe until last July. In-person interviews were not finished until this past January.

Prosecutors said they then spent two months corroborating the woman's claims before seeking the superseding indictment filed last week. Maxwell's arraignment on the new charges is scheduled for this month.

According to the indictment, the woman was sexually abused multiple times by Epstein between 2001 and 2004 at his Palm Beach, Florida, residence, beginning when she was 14 years old.

Maxwell is pictured in a court sketch from July last year, where she was denied bail. She has unsuccessfully applied for bail a further two times since. It appears her attorneys will try for a fourth time as they seek to have her upcoming trial delayed in light of the new charges 

It said Maxwell groomed the girl to engage in sex acts with Epstein by giving her gifts and cash.

Epstein was facing sex trafficking charges when he took his life in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. She has been held without bail at a federal lockup in Brooklyn. A judge has repeatedly rejected bail packages that would require the posting of $28.5 million in assets and require Maxwell to remain at home, with armed guards preventing flight.

Prosecutors say they will oppose any request to grant bail if the trial is postponed. Defense lawyers say Maxwell's health is deteriorating behind bars. Prosecutors say that is untrue.

The launch of the webpage is a notable shift in tone by the famously tight-lipped family, who appear to be trying to salvage Maxwell's reputation ahead of her trial in July

Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, in June 2019 with her six living siblings. Ian Maxwell, her older brother, top right, shared it this weekend. A month after it was taken, Jeffrey Epstein was arrested and Ghislaine went into hiding with her husband, Scott Borgerson. The siblings, L-R, are: Anne, 73, Kevin, 62, twins Isabel and Christine, 70, Philip, 71, and Ian, 64

Meanwhile, Maxwell's family this week launched a website in her support, insisting that she is 'no monster' and protesting her innocence.

The site, realghislaine.com, went live on Friday,  with her family sharing biographical details, information about her upcoming trial, jail conditions, as well as the books she is reading behind bars. 

'This website has been developed and is maintained by brothers, sisters, family & friends of Ghislaine Maxwell, the people who have known the real Ghislaine all her life, not the fictional one-dimensional character created by the media,' it states. 

'We believe wholeheartedly in our beloved sister's innocence and encourage visitors to this site to sign up for updates from the family on her case by providing your e-mail address below in the strictest of confidence.' 

The website attempts to paint Maxwell in a positive light, describing her as 'kind and compassionate' and includes a biographical section with details of her family, work and accomplishments over the years. 

Prosecutors said, in a letter filed in federal court, that the British socialite 'frequently did not flush her toilet after using it, which caused the cell to smell' 

Elsewhere this week, Maxwell refuted claims about her alleged behavior behind bars including that she doesn't flush the toilet in her cell.

In a filing on Tuesday, prosecutors said jail staff recently ordered Maxwell to clean her 'very dirty' cell, which smelled because she 'frequently did not flush her toilet after using it.'

Her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim responded to the claims, accusing prosecutors of trying to 'publicly embarrass and humiliate Ms. Maxwell in the hostile court of public opinion' and  jeopardizing her right to a fair trial on charges.

Sternheim countered that the sometimes 'overwhelming' stench resulted from toilets overflowing in a nearby cellblock.

'Due to lack of privacy, Ms. Maxwell refrains from using the toilet in the isolation cell and, as directed by the guards, she flushes frequently to avoid plumbing problems,' she wrote.

Sternheim said inmates, including Maxwell, must drink dirty tap water and are surrounded by mold, vermin, cockroaches and rodents.

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