Ghislaine Maxwell Pleads Not Guilty to Sex-Trafficking Charges
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In First in-Person Court Appearance, Ghislaine Maxwell Pleads Not Guilty to New Sex-Trafficking Charges

First indicted in federal court during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghislaine Maxwell previously attended hearings virtually from behind bars in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. That pattern changed for the first time on Friday, as Maxwell appeared live in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse where she pleaded not guilty to new sex-trafficking charges.

Maxwell said little in the brief hearing before pleading not guilty through her attorneys.

The brief arraignment wrapped up some 15 minutes after it began, with lawyers commenting little about the sometimes strident written filings that preceded it. Maxwell waived a public reading of the new, bombshell allegations.

Filed late last month, Maxwell’s new indictment introduces a “Minor Victim-4” to her prosecution, extends the length of the charged conspiracy, and potentially exposes the accused sex-trafficker to a possible 80-year sentence — in essence, life in prison. Prosecutors previously revealed the new charges came about after the alleged victim, who has not been identified, agreed to speak to them last summer.

Before the hearing, Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim called the new counts “shocking, unfair, and an abuse of power.” She wrote that in a motion demanding an in-person arraignment “especially in light of media coverage” and a “debacle” in a related civil case where QAnon adherents violated court rules to throw a virtual hearing where she appeared on YouTube.

Sensitive to that issue, the court made proceedings available outside the courtroom only via telephone, not visually. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan reminded listeners that recording or rebroadcasting the hearing violated the court rules.

Maxwell has requested moving back the trial, currently scheduled for July 12, to a later date in light of the new charges.

Though she did not rule on the matter, Judge Nathan signaled that Maxwell’s defense should not count on a continuance.

“Everyone should assume that it’s July,” Nathan said.

The judge told the government to turn over all necessary information to the defense seven weeks before trial.

“We are confident and comfortable that we can make the disclosure 48 days before trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey said.

Though Maxwell’s lawyers have lost a litany of motions seeking to dismiss the case, they notched a narrow win that effectively split the future trial in two: one for allegations that she groomed and abused Epstein’s victims and another accusing her of lying about that twice under oath. The government has argued that obviates any need for a trial delay, which they said would cause “significant” and “enormous” stress for the victims.

The judge remarked that the public phone line also allowed the alleged victims and Maxwell’s family to listen into the proceedings.

This is a developing story.

[image via Mark Mainz/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.