A federal judge has ordered an inquiry into whether a juror’s alleged false statements during the selection process require a new trial for convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
That inquiry is now scheduled to take place on March 8.
In an order on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said that juror Scotty David’s “direct, unambiguous statements to multiple news outlets” following Maxwell’s convictions “cast doubt on the accuracy of his responses during jury selection. Though he went public in press interviews under his first two names, his identity currently remains shielded in court documents as “Juror 50.”
“Because of the important interest in the finality of judgments, the standard for obtaining a post-verdict hearing is high,” Judge Nathan wrote in a three-page order. “The Court concludes, and the Government concedes, that the demanding standard for holding a post-verdict evidentiary hearing is met as to whether Juror 50 failed to respond truthfully during the jury selection process to whether he was a victim of sexual abuse.”
David told multiple news outlets that his experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse informed his decision to convict Maxwell of sex trafficking and other federal crimes that could lock up the Jeffrey Epstein accomplice for the rest of her life.
“This is a verdict for all of the victims,” David declared, in what ran as a pull quote in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper.
The juror later granted interviews to Reuters and The Daily Mail, which ran a video interview. David reportedly told reporters that he breezed through the part of the jury questionnaire asking him whether he or any friend or family member was a victim of sexual abuse. Though his questionnaire is not yet public, multiple news outlets reported that checked the box responding “No.”
“Juror 50’s post-trial statements are ‘clear, strong, substantial and incontrovertible evidence that a specific, nonspeculative impropriety’—namely, a false statement during jury selection—has occurred,” Nathan wrote.
Other news outlets, including the New York Times, reported that other Maxwell jurors stepped forward, saying that they were sexual abuse survivors. Maxwell’s defense attorneys wanted to query them, as well, but the judge found their personal histories were beside the point.
“To be clear, the potential impropriety is not that someone with a history of sexual abuse may have served on the jury,” Nathan noted. “Rather, it is the potential failure to respond truthfully to questions during the jury selection process that asked for that material information so that any potential bias could be explored.”
Nathan denied Maxwell’s request to question anyone but David, who has now retained attorney Todd Spodek—who also represented “fake heiress” Anna Sorokin—amid accusations that he falsely answered sworn documents. She also denied Maxwell’s request for a new trial “on this record,” for now.
Though prosecutors specifically granted the requested inquiry, ex-sex trafficking prosecutor Mitchell Epner told Law&Crime that Nathan’s order “seriously places the conviction in jeopardy,” particularly given the juror’s possible criminal liability.
“I cannot imagine Juror 50 voluntarily answering questions,” noted Epner, who is a partner at the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC. “Juror 50 will have a Fifth Amendment right not to respond to questions. Those assertions of the Fifth Amendment could not be used against Juror 50 in a potential criminal prosecution of Juror 50. But the defense will argue that the court is free, with regard to the prosecution of Ghislaine Maxwell, to draw the inference that truthful answers by Juror 50 would have incriminated Juror 50.”
If the judge did draw an adverse inference that David made knowingly false statements, Epner said that could help Maxwell secure a new trial.
Maxwell’s defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York declined comment.
Read the ruling, below:
(Photos via DOJ and Daily Mail screenshot)
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