Ghislaine Maxwell’s Decision to Stay in U.S. May Help Her Chances for Bail
(Bloomberg) -- Unlike Jeffrey Epstein, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell may have strong arguments that could let her stay out of jail ahead of trial, including her decision not to flee the U.S. after his arrest a year ago, legal experts say.
Maxwell, 58, is scheduled to make her first court appearance via video conference July 14 before U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, where she will enter a plea and the judge will likely hear arguments on whether she should be granted bail.
Maxwell faces a fight. Prosecutors claim she is an “extreme flight risk,” with no family in or ties to the U.S. and a strong incentive to run because she’s facing a lengthy prison term if convicted. And her alleged victims may get a chance to argue against her release. But legal experts note that she had more than a year to get out of the U.S. after Epstein’s arrest last July and she didn’t run -- a fact that will help her in court.
“If I’m on the defense team, I’m arguing that she wasn’t hiding and she’s a citizen of three countries, Britain, France and the U.S.,” said Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, a former federal prosecutor in Miami who’s now in private practice. “Where did they find her? In New Hampshire. It wasn’t Abu Dhabi, it wasn’t in Kenya. So she wasn’t ‘hiding.’ She was living her life.”
Maxwell was arrested July 2 at a secluded 156-acre home in Bradford, New Hampshire, which she bought for more than $1 million in December. She’s charged with conspiracy and perjury and accused of luring and enticing underage girls as young as 14 for sexual encounters with Epstein and his friends. She faces as long as 35 years in prison if convicted of the sexual assaults, prosecutors said.
“The fact that she remained in the United States and was found in the United States is certainly a factor I think pointing in her favor that the defense will stress,” said Jessica Roth, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who’s now a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York.
Maxwell’s lawyers didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Maxwell’s attorneys may propose that if she’s freed on bail, she will agree to be returned to the U.S. for trial should she ever flee, Pinera-Vazquez said. In 2015, Pinera-Vazquez and her colleague won the release of former international soccer boss Juan Angel Napout on $20 million cash bond while he was awaiting trial in Brooklyn, New York.
Maxwell’s lawyers are likely to point to the coronavirus pandemic raging in the city’s federal jails as a reason to release her on bond, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Florida.
“I do realistically think she’s got somewhere between 25% to 40% chance to get out on bond and I think it’s that high because of coronavirus,” said Weinstein, now a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Miami. “I’ve seen a number of individuals, both U.S. citizens, foreign citizens who have been able to convince the courts that the danger to them, of getting coronavirus in an enclosed environment at a detention center, is far greater than the risk that they’re not going to show up.”
Several high-profile convicted felons have been released from prison because of the pandemic, including President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Prosecutors say the charges are too serious and the risk is too great to allow Maxwell out on bond.
Because the case involves minors, prosecutors say under the law there are no conditions that can reasonably assure her appearance in court or ensure the safety of the community.
The U.S. says Maxwell has the means to flee, including “extensive international connections,” three passports and “significant financial resources,” including at least $1 million in overseas bank accounts. She collected $15 million after selling her New York city home in 2016, they note.
In addition to anything that Epstein’s victims may tell the judge, Nathan will be aware that Epstein died while in custody awaiting trial almost a year ago. Acting U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Audrey Strauss said her office was focused on Maxwell’s safety.
“We are sensitive to that concern and certainly will be in a dialogue with the Bureau of Prisons,” she said at a news conference last week.
Weinstein said the federal lockup in Brooklyn, where Maxwell is being held, has already come under scrutiny as a result of the recent deaths of two inmates.
“She’s such a high profile person with such a notorious alleged crime of being associated with Epstein,” Weinstein said. “Does that put her at greater risk for possible harm coming to her if she stays in?”
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