A federal judge has postponed Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial until the fall of this year, citing the prosecution’s decision to bring a new indictment in late March adding federal sex trafficking charges.
“Having carefully considered the parties’ respective positions, the Court GRANTS Maxwell’s request for a short continuance until the fall of 2021 to allow the defense to prepare for the additional charges brought in the [second superseding] indictment,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan wrote. “The Court rejects Maxwell’s alternative request to continue the trial date until January of 2022 and the Government’s alternative proposal that the Court adjourn trial until March of 2022.”
Federal prosecutors opposed any delay as stressful to the victims.
“The longer this case remains pending, the longer the victims suffer the anxiety of anticipating their trial testimony and the uncertainty of awaiting a resolution,” prosecutors wrote late last month. “As a result, multiple victims oppose any adjournment of the trial date.”
A grand jury brought a new indictment against Maxwell after prosecutors supplemented their case with someone known only in court documents as “Minor Victim-4.” Other anonymous victims told prosecutors they wanted a speedy trial.
“In particular, Minor Victim-3 expressed feeling significant stress during the pendency of this case and a strong desire to have the case brought to a close through trial as soon as possible,” prosecutors wrote in April. “Similarly, Minor Victim-2 also indicated that she has experienced an enormous amount of stress while this case has been pending, wishes to see the case brought to trial.”
Nathan acknowledged: “The Court is very mindful of the countervailing considerations that require that any adjournment be no longer than necessary.”
But the judge added that the additional charges, which extend the time frame of the alleged conspiracy and introduce a new alleged victim, spells more work for Maxwell’s defense.
“These additions will require the defense to (1) review a substantial amount of discovery that is now potentially relevant as a result of the S2 Indictment; (2) re-review discovery that it had previously considered in light of the changes to the case against her; (3) conduct new investigations based on the new charges, including potential interviews of new witnesses; and (4) re-evaluate her trial preparation and strategy,” the judge’s ruling states.
Though New York is readying to open up again after long periods of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, the judge added that the pandemic remains a complicating factor.
“As the Government indicated in explaining the delay in filing the new charges, travel constraints and other safety concerns resulting from the pandemic have slowed trial preparation and complicated the logistics of conducting investigations,” she noted.
Prosecutors had argued that delay was unnecessary because Maxwell succeeded in splitting her upcoming trial in two. The first trial will have a jury evaluating claims that Maxwell engaged in sex trafficking and groomed and abused Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. The second will assess whether she lied about it under oath in civil litigation with Virginia Giuffre, who alleged that Maxwell defamed her by denying it.
“Although the perjury counts were recently severed, the court cannot conclude that this sufficiently offsets the additional burdens placed on the defense as a result of the new charges and expanded time frame resulting from the S2 indictment,” Nathan’s ruling states.
Maxwell pleaded not guilty to the new indictment late last month, when she appeared in court in person for the first time for her arraignment. Previous hearings had been virtual in light of coronavirus-related restrictions that were in place since her original indictment in July 2020.
Judge Nathan ordered prosecutors and defense counsel to propose a fall trial date by May 10, just one week from now.
Read the document here.
[image via JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images]
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