Less than a week after Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer claimed her client got a mysterious “black eye” in jail, a federal judge declined to order the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to turn over videos of an alleged incident involving attorney-client communications to the accused sex trafficker’s defense lawyers.
Maxwell’s counsel Bobbi Sternheim claimed her client’s guards confiscated her legal papers on April 24.
“The court has ensured and will continue to ensure that Ms. Maxwell has the opportunity to meet meaningfully and confidentially with her lawyers in light of all relevant circumstances and consistent with the treatment of all other detained inmates in BOP custody,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan wrote in a two-page ruling, abbreviating the Bureau of Prisons. “The isolated incident that took place on April 24, 2021, and the serious allegations leveled by MDC legal counsel and defense counsel in no way undermine the court’s conclusion that Ms. Maxwell and her lawyers are fully able to prepare for trial. The court is confident that all parties recognize the importance of this going forward and in advance of the upcoming trial.”
Maxwell’s lawyers threatened the jail with litigation after the alleged incident and asked the judge to order sharing the videos capturing it with the defense.
“Those video tapes must be preserved in light of defense counsel’s preservation letter,” Judge Nathan wrote. “If Ms. Maxwell or defense counsel are entitled to view or receive copies of those materials as a matter of law, they should be provided. To the extent defense counsel is seeking entitlement to those materials from this court, that application is denied.”
In addition to raising attorney-client confidentiality concerns, Maxwell’s lawyers also have accused the jail of intimidating and harassing their client. One of Maxwell’s recent court filings alleged that she got a “black eye” for unknown reasons and did not report it to the guards for fear of retaliation.
Shortly after her arrest in July 2020, Maxwell was placed on suicide watch and has been under varying levels of restrictive watch since that time. Her lawyers allege that the Bureau of Prisons over-corrected to the lapses that allowed Jeffrey Epstein to die in their custody, in what has been ruled a suicide.
“She’s checked at night every 15 minutes with lights shining in her eyes so that they can check her breathing,” Maxwell’s attorney David Markus told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last month, in an appeal of rulings denying her bail.
“They’re doing it because Jeffrey Epstein died on their watch, and again, she’s not Jeffrey Epstein,” Markus added later.
Shortly after those arguments, the Second Circuit’s three-judge panel unanimously denied Maxwell’s appeal, but their brief summary order invited Maxwell to take up her complaints to the trial judge.
“To the extent [Maxwell] seeks relief specific to her sleeping conditions, such request should be addressed to the District Court,” the panel wrote.
Judge Nathan did not comment on Maxwell’s allegations regarding her treatment in custody.
“The Court intimates no views as to whether some other action or process is appropriate or proper in light of either side’s allegations,” her ruling states. “This Court’s obligation in this case, and any other, is to ensure that the defendant is given an opportunity to meet with her lawyers, engage in confidential attorney-client communications, and prepare for trial.”
“Mindful of that obligation, the Court declines to take further action at this time,” it continues.
Nathan ordered the government to confer with legal counsel for prison officials to make sure Maxwell has access to attorney-client materials.
“If any additional incidents arise, defense counsel shall promptly confer with counsel for the government regarding those incidents and seek to resolve any such issues swiftly, responsibly, reasonably, and amicably,” the judge added. “If that fails, the parties may write to the Court jointly indicating their views, identifying and justifying any specific application being made.”
Maxwell pleaded not guilty to allegations of sex trafficking and conspiring to groom and abuse women and girls for Epstein’s predation. She is currently slated to stand trial on those charges July 12, and she will be tried separately on allegations that she perjured herself in a defamation lawsuit filed by Epstein’s victim Virginia Giuffre.
Read the judge’s ruling here.
(Screenshot from Maxwell’s defense brief)
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