When federal prosecutors leveled sex-trafficking charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for the first time in late March, her defense attorneys howled that the government sandbagged them with a late-breaking superseding indictment with more serious offenses than Jeffrey Epstein ever faced. On Friday, prosecutors revealed why those new charges landed so close to her upcoming trial in July: A new person, identified in court papers only as “Minor Victim-4,” agreed to speak to the government for the first time last summer.
“Specifically, although Minor Victim-4 had previously been interviewed once in or about 2007 during the Florida investigation […] Minor Victim-4 did not agree to be interviewed by the government until July 2020,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey wrote in an eight-page memo on Friday. “The Government then conducted two preliminary interviews with Minor Victim-4 by video teleconference in the summer of 2020. Because of the difficult nature of the interview topics, however, the government was not able to fully debrief Minor Victim-4 over video.”
Coronavirus-era restrictions made an in-person interview difficult, and prosecutors said the interview eventually took place this past January.
“Over the next two months, the government worked expeditiously to conduct additional investigation to corroborate Minor Victim-4, including by interviewing additional witnesses, reviewing documents that had already been produced to the defense in discovery, and subpoenaing additional records, which the government promptly produced to the defense upon receipt,” the brief continues.
On March 29, a federal grand jury would issue their second superseding indictment against Maxwell, which extended the length of the charged conspiracy against her and added two sex-trafficking counts that could put her away for up to 80 years, effectively a life sentence. Maxwell’s prosecution sprang out of Epstein’s sex-trafficking investigation, but it was never officially a sex-trafficking case until the government brought those charges explicitly last month.
Labeling the new charges “shocking, unfair, and an abuse of power,” Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim argued that a delay would be necessary to prepare for a trial based a significantly expanded allegations, but prosecutors called that response overwrought.
“Although trial may be modestly longer as a result, the [second superseding] indictment by no means opens the floodgate of witnesses the defense imagines; to the contrary, the government expects to present a streamlined case focusing primarily on the four minor victims referenced in the [second superseding] Indictment,” the prosecution memo states. “Moreover, the government has already taken, and will continue to take, steps to ensure that the defense will be fully prepared for trial as scheduled in July.”
Maxwell has tried, and failed, three times to post bond in order to prepare for trial outside of Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where she is being detained. She has demanded an in-person arraignment, currently slated for April 23 in the Southern District of New York. She will attempt for a fourth time to persuade U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to release her before trial and plans to appeal the earlier denials to the Second Circuit.
Prosecutors note that Maxwell is in an even worse position for pre-trial release than her last attempts.
“If anything, the arguments in favor of detention are now stronger,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant now faces two additional charges, which increase the maximum penalty she faces to eighty years in prison. She also faces even more evidence, including a fourth victim, who is corroborated by independent evidence, including other witnesses and documents such as travel records, phone records, shipment records, and items recovered during the execution of a search warrant.”
Read the prosecution’s new memo below:
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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