Judge denies bail for Ghislaine Maxwell after she pleads not guilty in Jeffrey Epstein sex crimes case

Key Points
  • A federal judge denied bail for Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of facilitating the sexual abuse of young girls by her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, the now-dead investor.
  • Epstein, who killed himself, was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as of Britain's Prince Andrew.
  • Lawyers for Maxwell had proposed she be released on $5 million bond. Prosecutors want her detained without bail, calling her an extreme flight risk.
  • "Not guilty," Maxwell said before a judge scheduled her trial to begin on July 12, 2021.
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing where she was denied bail for her role aiding Jeffrey Epstein to recruit and eventually abuse of minor girls, in Manhattan Federal Court, in New York, July 14, 2020 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

A federal judge on Tuesday denied bail for Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of facilitating the sexual abuse of young girls in the mid-1990s by her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, the now-dead investor.

Maxwell, who will remain in jail pending trial, pleaded not guilty at the bail hearing in Manhattan federal court, where her lawyer had sought her release on a $5 million bond.

Maxwell poses "a substantial risk of flight," said Judge Alison Nathan.

"The risk is simply too great" for Maxwell to be released on bail, Nathan said.

The judge noted Maxwell's wealth, her citizenship in Britain and France, other international ties, and her lack of strong family or business connections in the United States, as she denied the bail request. 

Nathan also cited the "seriousness" of Maxwell's alleged crimes as a reason she would have to flee and said no bail condition, or combination of conditions, would ensure she would willingly appear in court on the charges.

Maxwell, 58, faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of crimes that include enticing minors into traveling to have sex with Epstein, and perjury.

The daughter of the dead crooked British media baron Robert Maxwell did not visibly react to the judge's decision, which she saw and listened to via a video teleconference from a Brooklyn, New York, federal jail.

The bail denial came nearly a year to the day after Epstein was himself denied bail on child sex trafficking charges after his lawyers offered to post a whopping $100 million bond.

A federal prosecutor who argued against Maxwell's bail request told Nathan that Maxwell had posed as "Jen Marshall," a "journalist" who was seeking privacy, last November when she looked at purchasing the New Hampshire house where she was found in her pajamas and arrested by FBI agents on the morning of July 2.

Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing where she was denied bail for her role aiding Jeffrey Epstein to recruit and eventually abuse of minor girls, in Manhattan Federal Court, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 14, 2020 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Maxwell, according to a real estate agent involved in the purchase, posed as the wife of a man who identified himself as "Scott Marshall," a purported retired member of the British military who was writing a book, the prosecutor, Alison Moe, said.

The $1 million house, which sits on more than 150 acres of land, later was bought by a legal entity set up for that purpose, and to hide the actual identity of the people who purchased the residence.

The real estate agent realized that Maxwell was the British-accented "journalist" who used another name after she saw news stories about her arrest, Moe said.

The prosecutor said that Maxwell's deception with the real estate agent, and other factors, warranted detaining her without bail, as did wealth of up to $10 million in assets, at least $4 million of which is in a Swiss bank account.

Maxwell, who waived her physical appearance in court due to the coronavirus pandemic, spoke in a clear, firm voice as she denied the charges laid out in a six-count indictment against her.

"Not guilty," Maxwell told Nathan early in the hearing, which lasted slightly more than two hours, and which was listened to on a conference call by more than 1,000 people.

Nathan scheduled Maxwell's trial to begin on July 12, 2021.

Moe estimated that the trial would take three weeks.

Annie Farmer, one of three women whose claims are the basis for the criminal case against Maxwell, told the judge that she should deny the bail request, saying that "the danger Maxwell posed must be taken seriously."

"She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women. She has never shown any remorse for her heinous crimes or the devastating, lasting effects her actions caused," Farmer said, after telling the judge she first met Maxwell when she was 16 years old.

Farmer, who requested to be identified by her real name during the court hearing, said, "Those that survived implore this court that she be detained pending trial."

Another accuser, identified as Jane Doe, said in a statement read to the judge by Moe, that, "Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did."

Protestors gather outside court as Ghislaine Maxwell is set to make her first court appearance on July 14, 2020 at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, on a video link from her cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, over sex-trafficking charges tied to her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein in New York.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Prosecutors had called Maxwell an "extreme" flight risk due to wealth, and cited her talent for "hiding" as she moved around New England in the past year since Epstein's arrest in July 2019.

They also argued that France, one of the nations where she holds citizenship, does not extradite its own citizens on criminal charges.

"There is an incredibly strong incentive for the defendant to flee," Moe said.

And "there's a real concern here that the defendant could live beyond the reach for extradition for years," the prosecutor said.

Moe scoffed at Maxwell's claim to federal Pretrial Services that she has "no income," which the prosecutor said was not credible given the lifestyle that Maxwell has been enjoying.

Moe also said it was troublesome that Maxwell was offering to have someone else's property secure her potential bond, at the same time she proposed to be released and to stay at a luxury hotel in New York City as her case proceeds to trial.

In a court filing Monday, prosecutors told Nathan that when the FBI went to arrest Maxwell in the New Hampshire home, she ignored an order "to open the door and, instead, [tried] to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her."

Prosecutors also said that after she was taken into custody FBI agents found a cellphone belonging to Maxwell at the house that had been wrapped in aluminum foil in an apparent effort to prevent authorities from tracking its whereabouts.

Prosecutors said that since her arrest, other people have come forward to bolster their case against her.

Maxwell's lawyers, in turn, had asked Nathan to set a personal recognizance bond for Maxwell in the amount of $5 million.

Defense attorneys said that bond would be secured by six unidentified co-signers, as well as by property in Britain worth $3.75 million.

The lawyers also proposed that Maxwell, who is the first person other than Epstein to be charged in connection with his alleged sex crimes, be confined to a residence in New York, with electronic monitoring, as a condition of her bail.

"Ms. Maxwell vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence," her lawyers, Mark Cohen and Jeffrey Pagliuca, wrote in a court filing last week.

Cohen argued during Tuesday's hearing that prosecutors failed to show Maxwell was a flight risk, noting that she had remained in the United States in the year since Epstein's arrest, and that her attorneys had been in regular contact with the prosecutors' office in an effort to dissuade them from filing charges against her.

Cohen told the judge that "It's just not realistic," particularly given restrictions in place because of the Covid-19 outbreak, that Maxwell and her lawyers can prepare effectively for her trial while she is being held in jail.

The attorney also told the judge that the defense will be making a "very significant [legal] motion that will decide whether this indictment survives, or the shape of this indictment."

Maxwell's lawyers argue that the bulk of the case against her, the charges relating to the sexual contact with minors by Epstein and her, are barred by a nonprosecution agreement that Epstein signed with federal prosecutors in South Florida in 2007, as part of his agreement to plead guilty to state criminal charges in 2008. That agreement, the lawyers say, covers Epstein's co-conspirators, of whom Maxwell allegedly is one.

But Moe said that Maxwell is not covered by that agreement.

Maxwell is charged with conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two counts of perjury.

The hearing came a day after the Bloomberg news service reported that Maxwell is also under investigation by the U.S. Virgin Islands' Justice Department for her alleged participation in Epstein's sex trafficking operation. Epstein owned a large private island in the Virgin Islands, which was locally known as "Pedophile Island."

NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992
NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

Epstein was arrested in early July 2019 on child sex trafficking charges lodged in Manhattan federal court. Prosecutors accused the millionaire financier of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his luxurious residences in Manhattan and in Palm Beach, Florida. An indictment against Epstein said he got access to those victims with the assistance of unidentified conspirators.

Weeks after being denied bail, Epstein, who was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was found semiconscious on the floor of his cell in federal jail in Manhattan, with marks on his neck.

In August, Epstein, 66, died from what authorities have ruled was a suicide by hanging in the same jail. Two guards who were supposed to check on Epstein are being criminally prosecuted for having allegedly tried to cover up their failure to monitor him and other inmates on the night that he died.

After Epstein died, prosecutors vowed to continue to investigate his alleged co-conspirators. Maxwell was the most prominent of those suspected of facilitating Epstein's alleged rampant serial sexual abuse of young girls and women.

When she was arrested earlier this month, Maxwell was charged in a six-count indictment with helping Epstein in the mid-1990s recruit and groom underage girls, at least one as young as 14 years old, so that he could sexually abuse them at his residences in New York, Florida and New Mexico, as well as at Maxwell's home in London.

"In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims," the indictment charges.

The charging document also said Maxwell "repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct" during a legal deposition in 2016 as part of a lawsuit by one of Epstein's accusers.

Read more of CNBC's coverage about Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell here: 
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