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Ghislaine Maxwell appears at pretrial hearing as judge REJECTS series of motions

Wearing a blue prison jumpsuit and often touching her shoulder-length graying hair, Ghislaine Maxwell suffered a series of legal setbacks at a pretrial hearing in New York after a federal judge denied her bid to include a swathe of evidence in court. 

Judge Alison Nathan on Monday ruled against a number of last-minute motions filed by the defense that sought to implement restrictions on prosecutors and question their decision to level charges during Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial later this month. 

The judge ruled that any evidence suggesting that the case against Maxwell was brought for ‘political’ reasons could not be introduced in front of the jury. 

Nathan also sided with prosecutors by allowing victims to use pseudonyms when testifying, adding a layer of secrecy to the case which has already come under intense scrutiny.

Jury selection for the high profile case is due to begin on November 15 with opening statements scheduled to begin on November 29. 

Maxwell, 59, who is accused of procuring underage girls for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.  

Courtroom sketch of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell in April

Ghislaine Maxwell appeared at a pretrial hearing at federal court in New York Monday ahead of jury selection. She is pictured right in a court sketch in April 

Judge Alison Nathan rejected a series of motions filed by the defense requesting certain evidence to be included or excluded from trial

Judge Alison Nathan rejected a series of motions filed by the defense requesting certain evidence to be included or excluded from trial

The British socialite, who has been awaiting trial behind bars, appeared at federal court in New York wearing a prison issue blue jump suit and a mask.

She sipped water from a bottle and played with her usually dark short hair, now gray and shoulder-length.

The defense had filed a series of motions in the lead up to the trial hoping to exclude certain evidence or terms from being used in front of the jury.

During Monday’s hearing, Judge Nathan rejected defense attorneys’ request to ban the use of the word ‘victim’ or ‘minor’, ruling it ‘unnecessary and impractical’.

She also sided with the prosecution that evidence about the ‘thoroughness’ of the investigation into Maxwell should not be admitted because it was ‘not probative’ to the question of her guilt.

Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal in 2007, under which he served 15 months for having sex with underage girls, cannot be mentioned to the jury, Judge Nathan ruled.

Maxwell is shown in prison earlier this year 'with a black eye'

Maxwell is shown in prison earlier this year ‘with a black eye’ 

Maxwell had hoped to use it to show that she wasn’t mentioned as one of the co-conspirators who were given immunity, but Nathan said that there was a ‘significant risk of prejudice’ if it was allowed in.

The judge did however reveal that one witness was among the four women named under the plea deal, confirming that a former close associate of Epstein has turned against him.

In another blow to Maxwell, Judge Nathan said no evidence on the charging decision could be admitted either, though it would be allowed during cross examination. 

Maxwell has claimed that she has been prosecuted in place of Epstein after he hanged himself in prison in August 2019. But Nathan said such claims and evidence about the prosecution’s motives for bringing the case will not be allowed.

Attorneys for Maxwell also hoped to include statements by former Attorney General William Barr which could have showed evidence of ‘political prosecution’, but Nathan ruled they were not relevant.

Judge Nathan noted that ‘the government is not on trial’ and there were ‘no black or white’ reasons why the case was brought.

Maxwell scored one victory when the judge ruled that emails that showed her arranging massages for women and girls over the age of consent could not be introduced to the court.

But she denied the defense’s request to ban witnesses from using pseudonyms, saying victims could give evidence using their first name or a different name due to the risk of ‘potential harassment from the media and undue embarrassment’.

Nathan noted that using their full names could ‘chill’ their desire to testify and put of others from doing so in other sex crimes cases.

Maxwell's attorneys filed a motion last week listing everything they don't want to be discussed in front of the jury including 'testimony about any alleged "rape" by Jeffrey Epstein' and 'reference to the accusers as "victims" or "minor victims"'

Maxwell’s attorneys filed a motion last week listing everything they don’t want to be discussed in front of the jury including ‘testimony about any alleged ‘rape’ by Jeffrey Epstein’ and ‘reference to the accusers as ‘victims’ or ‘minor victims”

Maxwell's attorneys had filing papers late last month asking for the judge to exclude mention of 'any alleged rape by Jeffrey Epstein'

Maxwell’s attorneys had filing papers late last month asking for the judge to exclude mention of ‘any alleged rape by Jeffrey Epstein’ 

The hearing came days after Prince Andrew filed his response to a sexual assault lawsuit made by a woman who alleged she was forced to have sex with him at Epstein’s command.

The Duke of York said that Virginia Roberts was seeking ‘another payday at his expense’ with the claims, filed in federal court in New York in August.

Andrew’s response included a New York Daily News article from 2015 that claimed Roberts recruited young women into Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.

The article referenced former friends who had described her as a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’ who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.   

Last month, Maxwell’s attorneys had also sought to block the public and news media from jury selection ahead of her trial and requested prospective jurors be screened individually and privately instead. 

Judge Nathan denied the bid in a court hearing late last month ruling that the factors in the case ‘point strongly against deviation from standard practice.’ 

She also rebuffed Maxwell’s request to keep the jury questionnaire sealed and said she was ‘not persuaded’ it could prejudice jurors.

The latest rulings are a setback to Maxwell and come weeks ahead of her trial for allegedly procuring underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to abuse. 

Judges in federal court in New York typically conduct screenings of jurors in open court in groups of about 20 with prosecutors and defense asking questions. 

But Maxwell wanted the process done privately because the ‘tsunami’ of negative publicity over the case meant it was necessary to root out potential bias and because of jurors possibly being asked highly personal questions.

Her attorneys also proposed leading the process instead of the judge, in another departure from normal.

During the hearing Judge Nathan said that she was ‘not going to permit’ attorney-led jury questioning.

She said that the ‘factors point strongly against deviation from that standard practice’ and that other judges in the Southern District of New York had dealt with other high profile cases without issue.

Judge Nathan said that conferred with Judge Ann Donnolly in the Eastern District of New York, the neighboring federal judicial district, who dealt with ‘similar issues’ of sensitive questioning of jurors.

Judge Donnolly recently presided over the trial of R. Kelly who was accused of sexually abusing underage girls as well.

Judge Nathan said that due to Covid-19 there would be some changes to the process of jury selection.

Jurors would be given a questionnaire ahead of time and after that potential jurors would be questioned by her in court one-on-one rather than as a group.

These measures would ‘protect the health of the parties and the jurors, help protect juror privacy and help protect juror candor’ while ensuring first amendment rights, Judge Nathan said.

Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim tried to argue that allowing the jury questionnaire to be made public before the trial would be like giving potential jurors a ‘take-home exam’ where they could work out the answers beforehand.

Sternheim said that she feared some jurors could be ‘motivated to sit on this jury’, suggesting that they would be biased against Maxwell.

Judge Nathan said she was ‘failing to see what the prejudice is’ and said that her questioning of jurors would be ‘probing.’

‘I am not persuaded that on the off chance there is a juror who has seen a media report of the questionnaire in advance and fails to disclose it is somehow prejudiced,’ she said. ‘If a juror is going to lie and be dishonest we will smoke that out.’ 

British socialite and Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell's brother said her treatment inside a Brooklyn jail is a 'human rights' abuse that is 'designed to break her'

British socialite and Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother said her treatment inside a Brooklyn jail is a ‘human rights’ abuse that is ‘designed to break her’

Nathan ordered that the questionnaire be filed to the public docket by the end of the week.

Sternheim asked for the wording on one question to be altered which asked if jurors had ‘protested for any regulations regarding sex trafficking against minors or sexual harassment.’ 

Prosecutors also asked that sketches of Epstein’s hearings in the Manhattan federal court after his arrest in 2019 which are hanging inside the building be removed before the jury selection process began.

Sterhneim said that it was ‘something we were going to raise,’ adding that the ‘pictures are in the corridor right by the elevator.’

Judge Nathan said: ‘We’ll get that down for sure.’

Before the hearing, the clerk asked if Maxwell was on the dial-in phone line from the grim Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where she has been held since her arrest last July.

Speaking in a nervous-sounding voice, Maxwell said: ‘Yes I am, this is Miss Maxwell and I am on the line.

The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn where Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, is awaiting trial

The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn where Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, is awaiting trial

The clerk had some technical difficulties and asked if Maxwell could hear her.

Maxwell said: ‘I beg your pardon, I cannot hear you. Vaguely hear you.

The clerk asked: ‘Are you in the room alone?’ to which Maxwell replied: ‘I am alone in the room.’ 

When Judge Nathan asked if Maxwell was listening and she said: ‘Good afternoon, your honor.’  

Defense attorneys had claimed that prospective jury members would be less likely to ‘respond honestly in open court’ due to the ‘sensitive’ nature of the case and the ‘negative’ publicity surrounding Maxwell, 59.

‘This case amplifies the likelihood that jurors will be more apprehensive and constrained to respond openly and honestly in open court within earshot of other jurors, members of the public, and the media,’ attorney Bobbi Sternheim said in court filings last week. 

‘The negative publicity has been so pervasive, vitriolic, and extreme that Ms. Maxwell has been demonized in the press.’  

Maxwell’s attorneys argued that a private screening would prevent jury members from being ‘influenced by (or influence) the answers given by fellow jurors or fear embarrassment in giving an honest response.’   

In earlier filings, her legal team had asked for the women who claim they were abused by Maxwell to be referred to as ‘accusers’ instead of ‘victims.’

They also requested for all evidence that was seized from Jeffrey Epstein‘s Palm Beach house to be excluded from her trial.  

Maxwell denies charges of sex trafficking multiple girls for Epstein, the disgraced late pedophile who hanged himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting his own trial. 

In October 19 court filings, her lawyers listed all of the things they don’t want to be discussed in front of the jury. 

They include details of a flight she took, ‘testimony about any alleged ‘rape’ by Jeffrey Epstein’ and ‘reference to the accusers as ‘victims’ or ‘minor victims’.’ 

The motion also asks the judge to exclude some of the hundreds of exhibits that prosecutors want to submit, but it doesn’t say why.  

Meanwhile Maxwell‘s family have been standing by her and have launched a public campaign hoping to rehabilitate her reputation ahead of her trial.

Ian Maxwell says he has not seen his sister in-person since June 2019, when all his siblings (pictured) came together to celebrate their father's 96th birthday in London. He says all the siblings support their sister and believe in her innocence

Ian Maxwell says he has not seen his sister in-person since June 2019, when all his siblings (pictured) came together to celebrate their father’s 96th birthday in London. He says all the siblings support their sister and believe in her innocence 

Older brother Ian Maxwell on Saturday spoke out against the ‘abuse’ he claims his sister has suffered behind bars in his first televised UK interview. 

Speaking to Sky News, Ian said he believes prison guards have ‘physically abused’ Ghislaine and that her treatment in custody is a ‘human rights’ violation that is ‘designed to break her.’  

‘I don’t see Ghislaine administering a black eye to herself,’ he said. ‘I think she has suffered some occasional physical abuse at the hands of her guards.’ 

He also said his sister’s applications for pre-trial release have been constantly denied, despite her losing 15 pounds and incarceration making it harder for her to prepare a defense.  

‘It’s designed to break her,’ he added. ‘That is just unjust. It’s a fundamental abuse of human rights. And I find that quite shocking.’     

Just over a month before the criminal trial starts, Maxwell was finally and officially given the names of the women who have accused her of recruiting them as teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse them.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the woman who has accused Prince Andrew in a civil claim of sexual assault and rape, is not among the complainants in the Maxwell trial.

Maxwell has long denied the charges against her and her attorneys say she is being mistreated in prison.  

They released a photograph of her with a black eye to prove it earlier this year and claim she has not been able to sleep in custody. 

‘We just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, so she can get ready for the trial of her life. 

‘It’s impossible to prepare for trial when you’re getting no sleep,’ one of her attorneys told the court earlier this year as he begged for her to be allowed out on bond to wait for the trial at home.  


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