Politics

Ghislaine Maxwell lawyers seek new trial after juror tells media he was sexually abused

Key Points
  • Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell asked a judge to set aside her conviction for abetting Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of underage girls.
  • Lawyers cited a juror's recent disclosure to reporters that he was sexually abused as a child and discussed that fact during jury deliberations.
  • Epstein, who died while in jail, was a former friend of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of Britain.
U.S. marshalls (not seen) block Ghislaine Maxwell from speaking with her sister Isabel during jury deliberations in the trial of Jeffrey Epstein associate Maxwell in a courtroom sketch in New York City, December 29, 2021.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell asked a judge Wednesday to set aside her conviction for abetting Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of underage girls, citing a juror's recent disclosure to reporters that he was sexually abused as a child and discussed that fact with other jurors during their deliberations.

The bombshell development came after prosecutors notified the judge of three media interviews with the 35-year-old juror that were conducted after Maxwell was convicted of multiple felonies on Dec. 29 in Manhattan federal court.

Hours later, The New York Times reported that a second juror told that newspaper that they discussed their own experience of sexual abuse with other jurors during deliberations in Maxwell's case.

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The British socialite's lawyers strongly implied in publicly disclosed parts of two letters to Judge Alison Nathan that the first juror failed to reveal during the jury selection process that he was a sexual abuse victim, despite having been asked to do so on a written questionnaire.

Maxwell's lawyers asked Nathan for a new trial on the charges, saying "we believe the law and facts are clearly on our side," and that there are "incontrovertible grounds" for tossing out the conviction.

Prosecutors in their own letter to Nathan asking for an inquiry into the juror's comments noted that he is quoted in reports as saying he "flew through" the jury questionnaire, and did not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse.

But the Manhattan resident also told reporters he would have answered honestly if asked that question, the prosecutors' letter noted. That letter cited interviews with the juror published by Reuters, DailyMail.com and The Independent.

In his letter to Nathan, Maxwell's lawyer Christian Everdell noted that according to the juror's statements to reporters, his disclosure of having been sexually abused "influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell."

The juror, identified in interviews by his first and middle names, Scotty David, told The Independent that he told fellow jury members during their deliberations about his abuse to explain why some of Maxwell's accusers might misremember certain details related to their own abuse.

"I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the colour of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video," he told The Independent.

"But I can't remember all the details, there are some things that run together."

The newspaper also reported that some jurors questioned why Maxwell's accusers did not come forward earlier with their allegations.

David told The Independent that he had not disclosed his own abuse "until I was in high school," and said the jury room went completely silent when he shared the story of that abuse.

In a second letter to Nathan, Maxwell's entire defense team argued that court hearing on the juror's comments is necessary to determine whether a new trial should be granted, objected to a request by prosecutors that the judge appoint a lawyer for the first juror for any hearing.

"Based on undisputed, publicly available information, the Court can and should order a new trial without
any evidentiary hearing," the letter said.

That letter also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a new trial can be granted if it can be shown that a "juror failed to answer honestly a material question" during jury selection and that a correct response would have been grounds to disqualify the juror from being seated.

"This standard applies even if juror's conduct was merely inadvertent and not intentional," the defense lawyers wrote.

Nathan later Wednesday set a briefing schedule on the issue, telling defense lawyers to file a motion by Jan. 19, and prosecutors to reply by Feb. 2.

Nathan also said she would appoint a lawyer for the first juror if he wanted one.

Maxwell, 60, faces decades in prison when she is sentenced for the five counts for which she was convicted.

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She has been held in a federal jail without bail since her arrest in July 2020, after Nathan found she was a serious flight risk.

Maxwell was found guilty of procuring several underage girls to be abused by Epstein, an eccentric money manager who previously had been friends with high-profile people such as former Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew of Britain.

Epstein, 66, died in August 2019 from what has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging while in a Manhattan federal jail as he awaited his own trial on child sex trafficking charges.