A diverse panel of 12 men and women busily scrutinized reams of evidence on their first full day of deliberations in the sex-trafficking case of Ghislaine Maxwell, requesting the testimony of all three of her alleged victims and notes from an FBI interview. Though only jurors are privy to the debates going on inside the deliberation room, juror notes provided clues about their discussions.
A former federal prosecutor described the notes as a “mixed bag” for the prosecution and the defense.
“All Admitted Exhibits Are Before You”
Conspicuously absent from the list of witnesses whose testimony jurors wanted to inspect was “Kate,” a British former actress testifying under a pseudonym who accused Maxwell of grooming her for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein. It is undisputed that “Kate” was 17 years old, above the age of consent in the relevant jurisdictions. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan instructed jurors that “Kate” was not an alleged victim.
The first note provided little insight into what jurors wanted to inspect inside the transcripts of “Jane,” Carolyn, and Annie Farmer’s testimony.
But the second jury note gave a glimpse.
The panel wanted to look at notes from an FBI interview with Carolyn in 2007, but jurors mistakenly referred to those notes a “deposition.” That mix-up may be telling.
Notes of FBI interviews with witnesses, known as 302s, are unauthenticated records of conversations that have not been recorded and cannot be entered into evidence. Maxwell’s defense attorneys have tried to undermine her accusers’ testimony throughout the trial by claiming they told the jury a different story than what they told federal authorities years earlier.
Judge Nathan crafted a response clarifying to the jury that what they requested is not in evidence.
“All admitted exhibits are before you,” that instruction read.
Attorney Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who led intake on sex-trafficking cases in the District of New Jersey in 2003 and 2004, found that jury request favorable for the defense.
“They [defense attorneys] hammered on the changes in account from FBI interview to trial testimony,” said Epner, who is now of counsel with the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC. “At least one juror is focused on that.”
Maxwell and her legal team appeared to agree with that analysis.
After the hearing where the jury note was recited, Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim appeared to be smiling ear to ear under her face mask when chatting with a spectator in the gallery. Maxwell herself, who appeared a little intense when the jury came back with a note, also looked upbeat. The jurors never received the FBI notes they requested.
Even though those notes are not public, they were described during Carolyn’s testimony.
As recited by Maxwell’s lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca, part of the note said: “Carolyn noticed an older lady with short black hair and an unknown accent at Epstein’s residence.”
“Isn’t that what you told the FBI when you told them the truth in 2007?” Pagliuca asked on Dec. 7.
“Yes,” Carolyn replied.
Pagliuca interrogated the “unknown accent” aspect of that remark, in defending his British client.
“Now, at that point in your life, you knew what a British accent was, correct?” he pressed.
Carolyn agreed that she did, but she added that she “didn’t say an unknown accent.” She testified that she told authorities that Maxwell had “an accent.” In accordance with Department of Justice policy, no recording of this interview could settle the controversy.
“This confusion is by design of the Department of Justice,” Epner noted. “They’ve created the 302 system, so that you can never get them cleanly into evidence at a trial.”
“And in this case, it may be backfiring on them,” he added.
The same notes allegedly state that Carolyn obtained Epstein’s number from a “telephone book.” Carolyn testified that she was referring to her “personal book,” rather than a directory.
“The Government’s Proposal Is ‘Yes'”
Just before deliberations closed for the day, jurors returned a note more promising for the prosecution, asking Judge Nathan whether they can consider Annie Farmer’s testimony as evidence of “conspiracy to commit a crime in counts one and three.”
For Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey, the answer was obvious.
“A one-word answer would be correct here,” Comey said. “The government’s proposal is ‘Yes.'”
Judge Nathan’s instruction to jurors wasn’t much different: “The answer is yes, you may consider it.”
Epner told Law&Crime that prosecutors must be “extraordinarily happy” with that question and answer.
“When the judge speaks, it’s the authoritative voice in the courtroom,” he noted in a phone interview. “The jurors look to the judge for unbiased information. And when the jurors put a question to the judge, it almost always means that there was a dispute amongst the jurors on that issue.”
Judge Nathan’s “very bare bones, affirmative answer” arms those who believed they could consider Farmer’s testimony and “takes the wind out of the sails” of any saying the opposite, Epner said.
The charges in play by Farmer’s testimony are conspiracy to entice individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity and conspiracy to transport individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity.
One of two sisters who reported Epstein to the FBI in the 1990s, Annie Farmer told the jury that she was 16 years old when she flew in to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch. She testified that Maxwell touched her breasts during a massage there, and Epstein crawled into her bed and tried to cuddle her.
Under that account, Farmer would not have been a minor in New Mexico, but she would have been in her home state of Arizona—as well as in New York, where she said Epstein felt her leg in a movie theater earlier.
The prosecution’s theory of the case is that Maxwell violated those two counts through the transportation, rather than the alleged acts.
Farmer’s mother Janice Swain corroborated the account that her daughter went to Epstein’s ranch after the movie theater experience in New York because she thought Maxwell would be there chaperoning her.
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