British celebrity Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty on Friday for helping late financier Jeffrey Epstein recruit and sexually abuse girls.
59-year-old Maxwell joined her application through her attorney before US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan.
The charges were contained in an eight-count indictment filed on March 29. It was the first time since her arrest last July that Maxwell had stood before a judge in person.
Prosecutors have accused Maxwell of caring for and paying for a girl who gave Epstein nude massages from the age of 14 and had sex with him from 2001 to 2004. The girl recruited others to offer erotic massages.
Maxwell previously pleaded not guilty to any charges. She helped Epstein recruit and care for three other girls for sexual abuse from 1994 to 1997 and committed perjury. Continue reading
Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan prison in August 2019, a month after he was arrested for sex trafficking.
Maxwell’s trial is still scheduled for July 12, provided a courtroom is available. However, their lawyers are aiming for a delay of 120 or 180 days due to the new charges, which a motion from the prosecutor denies.
“Ghislaine is looking forward to this trial,” said a spokesman, David Markus, after the indictment. “She’s looking forward to the fight and she will fight.”
Nathan hasn’t made a decision on whether to postpone the trial but said that if there is no delay, she wants to start as close as possible on July 12th.
In a letter released after the indictment, Maxwell’s attorneys suggested starting November 8, 2021 or January 10, 2022.
Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
The two perjury counts would be treated separately in a second attempt.
Friday’s hearing marked the first time Maxwell has appeared in public in person since she was arrested last July at her New Hampshire home.
Prosecutors said she was hiding, while Maxwell’s lawyers said she moved there to avoid incessant negative media advertising. She has been incarcerated in Brooklyn since her arrest.
Maxwell wore a loose fitting blue short-sleeved shirt and a white face mask, the dark hair of which reached below the shoulders. Her older sister, Isabel Maxwell, attended the hearing. Maxwell had videotaped her previous indictment.
Maxwell’s attorneys have complained that she suffered from weight loss and hair loss while in prison, which prosecutors have denied.
Nathan has declined bail three times, calling Maxwell a significant flight risk despite a proposed $ 28.5 million bail package.
Maxwell’s attorneys are due to argue in the Manhattan federal appeals court on Monday that the third bail denial should be overturned.
In searching for a delay in trial, Maxwell’s attorneys cited the “voluminous” evidence, accused prosecutors of being too slow to deliver material, and said prison restrictions prevented Maxwell from preparing her defense.
The lawyers have also repeatedly expressed doubts as to whether their client can even get a fair trial and accused the media of treating her as a “monster” because of the “Epstein Effect”.
Prosecutors have pledged “substantial efforts” to ensure Maxwell is prepared for a July trial.
They also said that delaying would hurt the four alleged victims as well. Two said they reported significant stress from the case and expressed a desire to go to court.
“Everyone felt betrayed by the death of Mr. Epstein,” said David Boies, attorney for some of Epstein and Maxwell’s prosecutors, after the indictment.
“Now that Miss Maxwell is on trial,” he added, “I think you’re looking forward to it.”
Even if no delay has been granted, a July 12 launch is not guaranteed.
Only seven courtrooms in the Manhattan courthouse have been reconfigured for the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for legal proceedings, according to a court spokesman.
Defendants incarcerated in criminal matters are given higher priority for trial, but some defendants are ahead of Maxwell.
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