Epstein friend Maxwell denied bail in sex-trafficking case

Ghislaine Maxwell is accused of luring underage girls so the late financier could sexually abuse them.

    Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and William F Sweeney Jr, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office, at a July 2 news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein [REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo]
    Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and William F Sweeney Jr, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office, at a July 2 news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein [REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo]

    A judge in the United States on Tuesday denied bail for Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's longtime associate charged with luring young girls so the late financier could sexually abuse them, after she pleaded not guilty at a hearing in which women who accused her of enabling their abuse decried her "heinous" actions.

    US District Judge Alison Nathan rejected Maxwell's bid for bail after prosecutors portrayed the wealthy socialite as an extreme flight risk and set a trial date for July 12, 2021. Prosecutors have accused Maxwell of helping Epstein recruit and eventually abuse girls as young as 14 from 1994 to 1997 and lying about her role in depositions in 2016.

    Maxwell, 58, was charged with six criminal counts, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts and two for perjury. Prosecutors argued at the hearing against Maxwell's bid for bail, describing her as an extreme flight risk.

    Maxwell appeared by video from the Brooklyn jail where she is being held. 

    Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, said the government's investigation is continuing, but did not currently anticipate seeking an amended indictment expanding the charges against Maxwell. Moe said the prosecution would take "no more than two weeks" to present its case and recommended three weeks for the trial.

    Epstein ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell to appear in court

    The wealthy socialite's lawyers sought a bail package including a $5m bond and home confinement with electronic monitoring. Prosecutors wanted Maxwell to remain in detention and opposed her bid for bail, calling her an "extreme" flight risk with no reason to stay in the United States.

    Prosecutors said her wealth and multiple citizenships - American, French and British - also supported the need for detention.

    Maxwell, Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate, was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding out at a 156-acre (63 hectares) property she bought in December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded.

    Annie Farmer, who has accused Maxwell of enabling her abuse, said during the hearing that the defendant "has never shown any remorse for her heinous crimes" and told the court "the danger Maxwell poses must be taken seriously".

    "She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women," Farmer told the court.

    "Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did," an unidentified accuser added in a statement.

    This accuser said she knew Maxwell for more than 10 years and still felt threatened, adding, "If she is out, I need to be protected."

    Maxwell has been held since July 6 at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a Brooklyn jail.

    Epstein was charged in July 2019 with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women from 2002 to 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He hanged himself on August 10 at age 66 in a Manhattan jail.

    Prosecutors accused Maxwell of luring girls as young as 14 by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies - acts, they said, that served as "the prequel" to Epstein's abuse. Epstein has been linked socially to several powerful figures including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.

    Lawyers for Maxwell also said bail was justified because she might contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in jail.

    Protesters and members of the news media gather outside Manhattan Federal Court, during the arraignment hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell, in New York
    Protesters with a sign outside Manhattan Federal Court during the arraignment hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the alleged sexual exploitation and abuse of underage girls by Jeffrey Epstein [Mike Segar/Reuters]

    Lawyers for Maxwell said she moved to the New Hampshire property and changed her phone and email address to escape "unrelenting and intrusive media coverage". Prosecutors said on Monday that when FBI agents went to arrest Maxwell, they had to forcibly enter her home, where she hid in an interior room, and found a mobile phone wrapped in tin foil in an apparent effort to evade detection.

    Maxwell also used former British military personnel to guard her in New Hampshire, prosecutors said.

    Her lawyers have previewed Maxwell's possible defences.

    These include that her alleged misconduct occurred long ago and would be hard to prosecute, and that she was shielded by Epstein's 2007 plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami, which covered "any potential co-conspirators".

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency