NEW YORK (AP) – Prosecutors hope to preserve a July trial date for Ghislaine Maxwell by defending a late extension of the charges against her, saying they developed when a woman spoke out after Maxwell’s arrest of her abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein in the early 2000s.
The rewritten indictment filed against the 59-year-old British socialite on March 29 added sex trafficking charges to allegations that Maxwell recruited three teenage girls from 1994 to 1997 for then-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein at sexual abuse. New charges extended the plot until 2004.
Two days after the indictment was returned to Manhattan federal court, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim called it “shocking, unfair and abuse of power,” saying the charges were based on evidence that prosecutors had had in their possession for years.
“The fact that the government made this move late in the game – with a trial scheduled for July 12 – is an obvious tactical game,” Sternheim wrote in a letter to the judge.
She said defense attorneys have yet to decide to request a postponement of the trial, but her letter suggested it was very likely and would be further grounds for Maxwell’s bail.
Prosecutors wrote to the judge on Friday telling him they would oppose any postponement of a trial that would take place almost exactly one year after Maxwell was arrested at a remote New Hampshire home.
They said the timing of the new charges “was dictated by developments in the government’s ongoing investigation, and not by the nefarious motives suggested by the defense.”
Prosecutors admitted that the woman whose allegations led to the new charges was questioned in 2007 during an investigation into Epstein in Florida. But they said she didn’t agree to be interviewed in the government’s current investigation until last July. And the in-person interviews didn’t end until January.
Prosecutors said they then spent two months corroborating the woman’s allegations before seeking the replacement indictment in late March. Maxwell’s arraignment on the new charges is expected this month.
According to the indictment, the woman was repeatedly sexually abused by Epstein between 2001 and 2004 at his Palm Beach, Florida residence from the age of 14. He said Maxwell prepared the girl to engage in sex acts with Epstein by giving her gifts and money.
Epstein was facing sex trafficking charges when he committed suicide in a Manhattan federal prison in August 2019.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. She was held without bail in federal lockdown in Brooklyn. A judge has repeatedly rejected bail packages that would require displaying $ 28.5 million in assets and forcing Maxwell to stay at his home, with armed guards preventing the leak.
Prosecutors say they will oppose any request for bail if the trial is postponed. Defense attorneys say Maxwell’s health is deteriorating behind bars. Prosecutors say this is wrong.