Before being slapped with new sex-trafficking charges, Ghislaine Maxwell filed a flurry of motions trying to scuttle her case by arguing her indictment was time-barred and violated a deal the U.S. government made with Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.
Maxwell’s many motions fell flat before a federal judge on Friday, except for one dividing her future trial into two.
One of Maxwell’s multiple attacks on her prosecution stemmed from the peculiar provision in the sweatheart plea deal federal prosecutors in Florida signed with Epstein in 2007, a non-prosecution agreement purporting to shield Epstein’s “potential co-conspirators.”
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan noted that Epstein signed the deal with the Southern District of Florida, not the Southern District of New York.
“The court concludes that the agreement does not apply in this District or to the charged offenses,” Nathan wrote in a 34-page opinion.
When prosecutors first charged Maxwell in July 2020, the indictment related to conduct between 1994 to 1997.
Though federal law typically imposes a five-year statute of limitations for most non-capital offenses, Congress granted prosecutors more latitude for crimes involving children through the passage of the PROTECT Act of 2003, which allowed for prosecution during any time of the life of victim.
The judge rejected the argument by Maxwell’s defense counsel that the law did not have retroactive application.
“Maxwell contends that it is unfair to allow the government to prosecute her now for conduct that occurred more than twenty years ago, but there is no dispute that Congress has the power to set a lengthy limitations period or no limitations period at all,” the ruling states. “It has done so here, judging that the difficulty of prosecuting these offenses and the harm they work on children outweighs a defendant’s interest in repose. Maxwell’s fairness argument is a gripe with Congress’s policy judgment, not an impermissibly retroactive application of the statute.”
Maxwell did manage to notch a narrow win, allowing her to cut her trials in two.
One will focus on allegations that she groomed and abused young women and girls for Epstein’s predation, and the other will determine whether she lied in depositions while fighting defamation claims by one of the alleged victims: Virginia Giuffre.
“Although some allegations of sexual abuse are relevant to both sets of charges, many are not,” Nathan wrote. “At a minimum, this will expand the scope of the trial far beyond the narrower issues presented. And while the court agrees with the government that at least some of Maxwell’s concerns are overstated, there is little question that the jury’s consideration of the nature of the defamation action will require a significant investment of time and resources to provide the requisite context.”
The pair of new sex-trafficking charges that federal prosecutors filed against Maxwell since she filed her motions are not covered by the judge’s ruling. Those new charges extend the length of the alleged conspiracy until 2004 and introduce a “Minor Victim-4,” who first agreed to be interviewed by the government last summer.
According to prosecutors, coronavirus-era restrictions made an in-person interview unworkable until 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 government revealed earlier this month.
Maxwell has moved to pause her trial, which is currently scheduled for July 12 this year. Prosecutors signaled that they will oppose this measure. Her lawyer did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Read the opinion and order below:
[image via JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images]
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