Lawyers for jailed British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell won their first battle a month before Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam goes on trial for child sex-trafficking, convincing the judge presiding over the case to keep the proposed jury questionnaire under seal to avoid tainting the jury pool.
In court documents filed Tuesday, Maxwell’s defense team asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to seal the proposed jury questionnaire and preliminary examination – known as a voir dire – under seal.
Federal prosecutors agreed to the request, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe writing in a two-page memo: ‘The defense respectfully requests that the joint proposed juror questionnaire and joint proposed voir dire be filed under seal to avoid media coverage that may prejudice the jury selection.
‘The government consents to the defense’s request.’
Maxwell, 59, has been in jail since her arrest last July in Bradford, New Hampshire at her $1 million country home. Her trial is expected to begin on November 29.
Ghislaine Maxwell (right with her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein in 2005) stands accused of facilitating and participating in Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors by recruiting teenage girls as young as 14 to provide sexual massages for Epstein
She pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in April
Maxwell is accused of facilitating and participating in her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors by recruiting teenage girls as young as 14 to provide sexual massages for the convicted pedophile, who killed himself in a Manhattan federal lockup in 2019 while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial.
Judge Nathan previously denied claims that a non-prosecution agreement Epstein reached with federal prosecutors over a dozen years ago when he was convicted in Florida protects Maxwell from prosecution in the Southern District of New York.
Nathan also disagreed that some or all charges should be tossed out for a variety of other perceived flaws.
The allegations against her surfaced after the Miami Herald’s 2019 three-part series Perversion of Justice revealed the actors behind Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement after he pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges involving an underage girl in 2008.
Former Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta resigned shortly thereafter as several prominent figures – including former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew – were caught up in the scandal.
The Herald soon followed-up with an open-records battle, which persuaded the United States Court of Appeals to open up a largely-sealed docket in a civil lawsuit Maxwell’s accuser Virginia Giuffre filed against her in 2015, and her depositions were released.
Charges that she perjured herself in that case will be tried separately.
Maxwell, a British socialite, has been in jail since her arrest last July in Bradford, New Hampshire at her $1 million country home
Virginia Giuffre, center, previously filed a civil case against her, and her depositions were released after the Miami Herald published a series documenting how Epstein managed to get a non-prosecution agreement. Giuffre is seen here with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell at her townhouse in London when she was 17
Maxwell’s lawyers have previously said she was demanding to be arraigned on the new allegations in person after the dial-in phone line on a previous hearing was hijacked by QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Her lawyers failed three times to convince Nathan to release Maxwell on bail after they claimed their client is living in poor prison conditions and has lost weight.
She had requested a week’s delay to April 23 to formally plead to two additional charges at federal court in New York.
A document filed by her lawyers states that this was to enable her ‘family members to adjust their schedules and make travel arrangements to attend the court proceedings’.
But Maxwell’s alleged victims pleaded with a federal court not to delay her trial because they are suffering from an ‘enormous amount of stress’.
Prosecutors said that two women who will give evidence against Maxwell will not be able to rest until the case is heard.
One is feeling ‘significant stress’ while the other is feeling an ‘enormous amount of stress’ and intends to give evidence in person despite her personal obligations at the time.
They wrote: ‘The longer this case remains pending, the longer the victims suffer the anxiety of anticipating their trial testimony and the uncertainty of awaiting a resolution.’
Maxwell’s lawyers are now asking for the jury questionnaire and voir dire to be sealed to avoid tainting a jury pool in her trial scheduled for November
The trial is expected to last up to four weeks for the government to present its case, although federal prosecutors said they could ‘rest as early as the third week of the trial, provided that the cross examinations of witnesses do not exceed the length of direct examinations,’ according to court documents obtained by Law and Crime.
Prosecutors are therefore requesting that the judge ‘seat only jurors with availability beyond the Christmas holiday.’
The defense, meanwhile, anticipates they could rest after two weeks, although ‘that estimate may change after the defense has had an opportunity to review the government’s witnesses and exhibit lists,’ which were made available to the defense lawyers on Monday night, after Nathan forced prosecutors to provide the team with the ‘identities of any unnamed co-conspirators whose names they plan to refer to at trial.’