Former Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty to sex-trafficking charges
By SHAYNA JACOBS AND DEVLIN BARRETT | The Washington Post | Published: April 24, 2021
NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime companion of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, pleaded not guilty Friday to sex-trafficking charges, appearing in Manhattan federal court for the first time since her arrest last summer on allegations she recruited and groomed young girls for Epstein to abuse.
Maxwell, 59, was shackled at the ankles and wore loosefitting blue jail scrubs, her hair grayer and longer than in her first appearance via video feed last year. She appears to have lost a significant amount of weight as well.
Maxwell, who has adamantly maintained her innocence, spoke only briefly on Friday. When asked by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan whether she was aware of the sex-trafficking charges filed against her late last month and if she had received a copy of the indictment, Maxwell responded affirmatively.
"Yes, your honor," she said.
Maxwell's lawyers are seeking to delay the start of what will be two trials. The first, covering charges related to sex trafficking and recruiting minor victims, is scheduled to begin in mid-July. The second trial, which has no proposed start date, will cover perjury allegations stemming from a deposition Maxwell gave as part of a lawsuit brought by one of Epstein's accusers.
The judge did not say Friday if she would grant the delay.
At Friday's brief court appearance, the parties discussed deadlines for pretrial litigation about what evidence will eventually be admitted.
Attorney David Boies, who represents several Epstein accusers, said after the hearing that it was "important to all of the survivors that this trial proceed as rapidly as it can consistent with ensuring the trial is fair."
Epstein, a multimillionaire who was close for a time with former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump as well as Britain's Prince Andrew, died by suicide in August 2019 while in federal custody following his arrest on sex trafficking charges.
Dozens of women have come forward with claims that Epstein sexually abused them at his properties in New York, Florida and elsewhere when they were minors in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2008, Epstein resolved similar charges by entering what has been widely criticized as an overly lenient plea deal with authorities in Florida. The arrangement resulted in about a year of jail time, although for much of it he was allowed out on work release.
"I think everybody felt they were cheated by Mr. Epstein's death," Boies said at a brief news conference after Friday's hearing. "Everyone was looking forward to holding him accountable."
Upon her arrest last year, Maxwell was accused of recruiting underage girls to give Epstein sexualized massages. In March, federal prosecutors superseded the indictment, charging her with sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl and sex trafficking conspiracy.
Prosecutors have alleged in court documents that Maxwell and Epstein compensated the girl with "hundreds of dollars in cash for each encounter" at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., and encouraged her "to recruit other girls to engage in paid sex acts with Epstein, which she did."
Maxwell's sister Isabel was in the courtroom and left promptly when it concluded.
Maxwell's legal team has complained for months that she is deteriorating in jail and should be released on bond to home confinement. She is appealing her third bail denial and arguments are expected Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
David Markus, one of Maxwell's lawyers, told reporters outside the courthouse that his client is "looking forward to fighting" the case and has not been treated fairly thus far. "She's been treated horribly," he said.
Barrett reported from Washington.