Maxwell pleads ‘not guilty’ as New York judge denies bail

The British socialite accused of conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to abuse underage girls had her request for bail denied by a New York judge, who cited the defendant’s vast financial resources and her “extraordinary capacity to evade detection”.

Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Tuesday that was conducted via video link due to coronavirus restrictions. She was arrested in an early morning raid on July 2 at a secluded New Hampshire estate, ending a year-long public mystery as to her whereabouts.

During the hearing, Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, accused Ms Maxwell of being “less than candid” about her financial resources, and noted her extensive international contacts. In addition to the US and the UK, she also claims citizenship in France — a country that would be unlikely to extradite her to the US if she were to flee, prosecutors said.

At one point, Ms Moe called Ms Maxwell “the very definition of flight risk”.

Prosecutors also offered details about her hide-out in New Hampshire. Ms Maxwell apparently posed as “Jen Marshall”, a British journalist seeking privacy, when she met with the estate agent marketing the property. The agent later saw a picture of Ms Maxwell on the news and realised her true identity.

Mark Cohen, Ms Maxwell’s attorney, countered that the front door of the house was unlocked when the FBI attended the property, and that there had been no need for dozens of agents to knock it down as they stormed into the house. Ms Maxwell, he said, would have willingly turned herself in if they had contacted her lawyers.

“She has been the target of endless media spin,” Mr Cohen complained, adding: “Our client is not Epstein.”

The defence had argued for Ms Maxwell to be confined in a luxury hotel in Manhattan while she awaited trial, now set for next July.

In what may be a preview of next year’s trial, the hearing featured an appearance by one Epstein accuser, Annie Farmer. She and her sister, a young art student, had gone to visit the financier at his estate in New Mexico. She said she met Ms Maxwell when she was 16, and called her “a sexual predator who groomed and abused me”.

Prosecutors also read a statement submitted by another Epstein accuser, identified only as Jane Doe, who claimed to have known Ms Maxwell for 10 years. She called the defendant “a predator and a monster” and said Ms Maxwell “thought it was funny” when recounting how she had recruited girls for Epstein.

She also claimed to have received a phone call late at night, in which someone threatened her two-year-old child if she testified in a civil suit against Ms Maxwell.

Ms Maxwell, 58, is accused of helping Epstein procure underage women for sexual abuse at his properties in New York, Palm Beach and New Mexico, according to a six-count indictment. Some of the victims were as young as 14-years-old. Ms Maxwell is also accused, in some cases, of participating in the abuse with Epstein, her longtime confidante. She faces up to 35 years in prison.

She is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the late UK newspaper baron, and became a fixture with Epstein on the Manhattan social scene after relocating from London.

His arrest in July 2019 sent shockwaves through elite circles of philanthropy, finance and academia in which he travelled — often with Ms Maxwell at his side. Recipients of his charity, including Harvard and MIT, have been forced to renounce their ties — as has former President Bill Clinton, who travelled across Africa on a charitable mission on Epstein’s private jet. Epstein committed suicide in a Manhattan prison in August.

Given the suspicions surrounding his death, authorities have taken extreme precautions with Ms Maxwell. Some of the spartan conditions of her confinement were revealed during Tuesday’s hearing, including the fact that her solitary cell is lighted 24 hours a day and that she was not allowed a shower for three days.

Appearing via video link from a room at the jail, Ms Maxwell reportedly wept as Judge Alison Nathan rejected her request for bail, concluding that the defendant had “substantial international ties” if she wanted to flee and that “even the most restrictive terms of release would be insufficient”.

Tuesday’s hearing also offered further grist for debate about one of the more curious aspects of Ms Maxwell’s arrest: a tin foil-wrapped mobile phone that was found by federal agents.

Ms Moe, the federal prosecutor, insisted it was an attempt to try to hide from the FBI, saying: “There can be no reason to wrap a cell phone in tin foil except to try to evade law enforcement — albeit foolishly.”

But Mr Cohen claimed his client’s phone had been hacked, and she was merely preserving it for legal reasons. If Ms Maxwell had thrown it away or destroyed it, he argued, then prosecutors might have accused her of destroying evidence.

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