Ghislaine Maxwell Must Stand Trial as Judge Denies Request to Dismiss Case
(Bloomberg) -- Ghislaine Maxwell must stand trial on sex-trafficking charges after a U.S. judge rejected her dismissal request, paving the way for a trial that could begin as soon as July.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan is the latest blow to the British socialite, who has been jailed in a high-security jail in New York since her arrest in July. While Maxwell, 59, is likely to file additional dismissal bids, the decision Friday defeats many of her key legal arguments.
Maxwell is accused of recruiting girls for sex for former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein in a scheme that ran from 1994 to 2004. She advanced numerous grounds for a dismissal, including a claim that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were barred from charging her as part of a deal that U.S. prosecutors in Florida reached with Epstein in 2007.
Nathan rejected the argument, calling Maxwell’s reading of the deal “an improbable interpretation.” In it, the Florida federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute Epstein if he pleaded guilty to state charges, as he did. Maxwell wasn’t a party to the agreement.
“The non-prosecution agreement was expressly limited to the Southern District of Florida” and did not apply in New York, Nathan said.
Maxwell denies wrongdoing. Her lawyers didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment. Jim Margolin, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, declined to comment.
In a 34-page decision, Nathan also concluded that prosecutors in New York didn’t wait too long to file charges, as Maxwell claimed, because the government has additional time to bring a case involving sex abuse of minors. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan began investigating in 2018 after a series of stories in The Miami Herald newspaper.
“The court sees no evidence that the government’s delay in bringing these charges was designed to thwart Maxwell’s ability to prepare a defense,” Nathan said.
Nathan granted one of Maxwell’s requests, saying she could have a separate trial to defend herself on two perjury charges. Prosecutors say Maxwell lied under oath in 2016 during a civil defamation suit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre.
Epstein, charged in New York with sex-trafficking in July 2019, was found dead in his jail cell the next month, in what authorities ruled a suicide.
Maxwell has asked that her trial, now set for July 12 in Manhattan, be delayed so she can review evidence relating to additional allegations filed against her last month. She’s also appealing the judge’s refusal to release her from jail.
The ruling came just hours after several hundred pages of legal filings in the case were made public, including the prosecutor’s response to Maxwell’s legal claims.
The New York prosecutors said they moved swiftly after the 2018 newspaper series. The filings revealed that the same prosecutors office decided in early 2016 not to initiate an investigation of Epstein, as Guiffre’s lawyers urged them to do at the time.
The case is U.S. v. Maxwell, 20-cr-330, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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