The day after three interviews ran with a Ghislaine Maxwell juror coming out as a survivor of sexual abuse, federal prosecutors requested a court inquiry into how those accounts square with the man’s answers to a jury questionnaire before trial.
Shortly after the government’s request, Maxwell’s attorney Christian Everdell claimed that the revelation regarding the juror “presents incontrovertible grounds for a new trial.”
In a separate letter, his co-counsel Jeffrey Pagliuca argued that further investigation was unwarranted, and the court “can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing.”
“The Supreme Court has held that to be entitled to a new trial, ‘a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause,'” Pagliuca’s letter states. “This standard applies even if the juror’s conduct was merely inadvertent and not intentional.”
Before the end of the day on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan set a briefing schedule on Maxwell’s request for a new trial. The defense motion is due on Jan. 19. The government must reply by Feb. 2, and Maxwell will have an opportunity to respond a week later. The judge reserved decision on whether a formal court inquiry will be necessary.
“This Verdict Is for All the Victims”
In interviews with three news outlets on Tuesday, a juror interviewed under his first and middle names, Scotty David, described how his personal experiences with sexual abused.
“This verdict is for all the victims,” David told The Independent. “For those who testified, for those who came forward and for those who haven’t come forward. I’m glad that Maxwell has been held accountable.”
Throughout the trial, Maxwell’s defense team put the memories of the women taking the stand against her at issue. David told reporters that he described how his abuse affected his own memories of trauma.
“I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together,” he told the paper.
David declared to the Daily Mail: “Ghislaine was a predator as guilty as Epstein.”
“After all I’ve learned, she’s just as guilty as Epstein,” David told the UK paper. “I don’t want to call her a monster, but a predator is the right word.”
Some jurors doubted the accounts of two of Maxwell’s accusers, David told Reuters.
All three disclosures raised eyebrows among legal experts who noted that jurors were made to fill out a questionnaire asking them directly: “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?”
The query was followed by three separate boxes for “Yes (self),” “Yes (friend or family member),” or “No.” Jurors were given several blank lines in a follow-up question to explain any “yes” answers with a short paragraph.
It is unclear how David answered, as the jury was anonymous and their sensitive personal information was placed under seal. Both the government’s and the defense’s characterizations of David’s voir dire statements appear to be redacted.
According to Reuters, David said that he “flew through” the initial questionnaire and did not recall being asked about those personal experiences with sexual abuse on the form, but he added that he would have answered honestly.
“Based on the foregoing, the Government believes the Court should conduct an inquiry,” prosecutors wrote in a three-page letter. “The Government proposes that the Court schedule a hearing in approximately one month, along with an appropriate schedule for pre-hearing briefing regarding the applicable law and the scope of the hearing. Government respectfully submits that any juror investigation should be conducted exclusively under the supervision of the Court.”
“This Is Huge”
All jury questionnaires were submitted anonymously under penalty of perjury, and the government recommended advising the juror of his right to an attorney for any hearing addressing the matter. Judge Nathan granted that request.
“Subject to the juror’s right to decline court-appointed counsel, the Court will appoint the on-duty CJA counsel to represent the juror,” Nathan wrote. “If counsel for the juror wishes to be heard on the issue of the appropriateness of an inquiry, briefing by the juror’s counsel may be filed by January 26, 2022.”
If the court were to conduct such a hearing, Maxwell’s lawyers said, all of the deliberating jurors should be examined about David’s conduct.
“Should the defense prevail on this motion—and we believe the law and facts are clearly on our side—it would render all other post-trial motions moot,” Everdell wrote in a heavily redacted letter. “Ms. Maxwell should not have to expend precious time and resources briefing other motions when this motion can and should be dispositive.”
Maxwell was convicted of five out of six federal crimes charged against her, including conspiring to entice minors for Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse and sex trafficking.
Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, who led intake on sex trafficking cases in the District of New Jersey between 2003 and 2004, said of the development: “This is huge.”
“The question was asked and the government knows the answers that were given,” said Epner, who is now of counsel for Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC. “I assume that he did not reveal past sexual abuse, or else there would be nothing to investigate. This could easily result in a new trial.”
Ex-federal prosecutor Moira Penza, who helped convict NXIVM cult member Keith Raniere, wrote on Twitter that Maxwell’s legal team would have to prove “substantial prejudice” to disturb an otherwise “sacrosanct” jury verdict.
“Given juror’s admission, prosecutors are right to ask for an inquiry but if he says it was a mistake and is credited by Judge Nathan, that’s prob[ably] the end of it,” tweeted Penza, who is now a partner at Wilkinson Stekloff.
Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Read the DOJ’s letter, below:
Read the defense’s letter, below:
[image via JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images]
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