Federal prosecutors push to keep Ghislaine Maxwell jailed, question statements about husband

An alleged victim said Maxwell "will not hesitate" to flee the country if freed.

December 18, 2020, 4:07 PM

Federal prosecutors in New York are urging a judge to reject Ghislaine Maxwell's second attempt to be released on bail in advance of her trial, arguing that she remains an "extreme flight risk" because of her foreign ties, her alleged "lack of candor" and her "demonstrated willingness and sophisticated ability to live in hiding," according to court documents made public on Friday.

Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty to enabling and, in some cases, participating in deceased sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sexual abuse of three minors in the mid-1990s, argued again for release on bail in a motion earlier this month. Maxwell's submission included letters from her previously undisclosed husband and more than a dozen relatives and friends attesting to her "forthright character" and their confidence she would not flee.

"Ms. Maxwell would never destroy those closest to her by fleeing, after they have risked so much to support her," Maxwell's attorneys wrote in the renewed motion for bail.

But prosecutors cast Maxwell's pitch for a $28 million bail package as a rehash of arguments previously rejected by the court at a detention hearing in July, two weeks after Maxwell's arrest.

"The offense conduct outlined in the indictment remains incredibly serious, the evidence against the defendant remains strong, and the defendant continues to have extensive financial resources and foreign ties, as well as the demonstrated ability to live in hiding for the long term," wrote prosecutors.

Maxwell revealed in her renewed bail application that she has been married for four years, but prosecutors balked at the notion that would keep her from fleeing the country and faulted Maxwell for an "apparent willingness to deceive" the court initially about her assets and her marital status after her arrest.

"Although the defendant now claims her marriage would keep her in the United States, her motion does not address the plainly inconsistent statements she made to Pretrial Services at the time of her arrest, when, as documented in the Pretrial Services Report, the defendant said she was 'in the process of divorcing her husband,'" acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss wrote.

"On this point, it bears noting that the defendant's motion asks that she be permitted to live with [name redacted] if granted bail, not her spouse," Strauss added.

PHOTO: Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the sexual exploitation of minors by Jeffrey Epstein in New York, July 2, 2020.
Audrey Strauss, acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks alongside William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the New York Office, at a news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein in New York City, July 2, 2020.
Lucas Jackson/Reuters, File

Maxwell's spouse, whose name has been redacted from the public version of the court filings, told the court in a letter earlier this month that the person described in the federal government's criminal charges is "not the person we know." He said he did not come forward as a co-signer to Maxwell's initial bail application because they were trying to protect their family "from ferocious media aggression."

"I have never witnessed anything close to inappropriate with Ghislaine; quite to the contrary, the Ghislaine I know is a wonderful and loving person," he wrote in a letter accompanying the motion for bail.

A person familiar with Maxwell's thinking said that divorce was an option she had considered immediately after her arrest in order to protect the privacy of her husband and family, but that it was not pursued.

Prosecutors noted in their response to the new bail application that all three of the alleged victims listed in the indictment continue to oppose her release. The government included in their filing a letter to the judge from Annie Farmer, 41, who has publicly identified herself as one of the three alleged victims. Farmer's letter expresses her doubts that Maxwell would show up for trial if she's granted release on bail.

"She has lived a life of privilege, abusing her position of power to live beyond the rules. Fleeing the country in order to escape once more would fit with her long history of anti-social behavior," Farmer wrote.

"Maxwell has repeatedly demonstrated that her primary concern is her own welfare, and that she is willing to harm others if it benefits her," Farmer continued. "She is quite capable of doing so once more. She will not hesitate to leave the country irrespective of whether others will be on the hook financially for her actions because she lacks empathy, and therefore simply does not care about hurting others."

At Maxwell's initial detention hearing in July, prosecutors conceded that they were not alleging Maxwell presented a danger to society if released on bail, but argued that her finances were "opaque" and that she was the "very definition of a flight risk."

More than $22 million of the assets Maxwell has pledged to secure the proposed bond would come from the combined resources of Maxwell and her husband, with the remainder to be posted by a handful of close family and friends, according to Maxwell's court filing earlier this month.

PHOTO: This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein.
This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein.
New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File

Maxwell's lawyers noted in their motion for bail that she and her husband have filed joint federal tax returns since 2016. Prosecutors did not challenge the accuracy of the couple's tax filings, but argued in their opposition that most of the couple's reported assets were Maxwell's to begin with, and that she had "slowly funneled the majority of her wealth to trusts and into her husband's name over the last five years."

As a result, the government contends, if Maxwell were to flee she would "largely be sacrificing her own money and assets, thereby limiting the moral suasion of her spouse co-signing the bond," prosecutors wrote.

The government also alleged that Maxwell's proposed bail package would still leave her with substantial resources to flee the country. Maxwell's proposal "does not change the government's position that the defendant has considerable financial resources and could live a comfortable life as a fugitive," prosecutors wrote.

Maxwell, 58, is the Oxford-educated daughter of Robert Maxwell, the larger-than-life publishing baron whose rags-to-riches story captivated England. She lived an extravagant life among the British elite until her father's business empire collapsed in the wake of his death in 1991. She decamped to New York looking for a fresh start and was soon seen in the company of the mysterious multimillionaire Epstein.

Following Epstein's death in August 2019, prosecutors vowed to hold accountable anyone who allegedly conspired with him or participated in his alleged child-sex trafficking crimes. Their attention quickly turned to Maxwell, who had previously been accused in civil lawsuits of facilitating Epstein's abuse of young women and girls, allegations that she has long denied. She was arrested on July 2 in a surprise early morning raid at a secluded 156-acre property in New Hampshire that had been purchased by a shell company in an all-cash transaction, according to court records and public documents.

Maxwell's lawyers have argued that she went into seclusion after Epstein's death in order to avoid media scrutiny on her and her family rather than to avoid arrest. But prosecutors argued in their opposition that, whatever the reason, "her time in isolation makes clear that, even to the extent she has loved ones and property in this country, she has proven her willingness to cut herself off entirely from them and her ability to live in hiding."

PHOTO: In this Oct. 18, 2019, file photo, Ghislaine Maxwell attends an event in New York.
In this Oct. 18, 2019, file photo, Ghislaine Maxwell attends an event in New York.
Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images, FILE

If granted bail under her proposed conditions, Maxwell would be restricted to a New York residence with round-the-clock security and GPS monitoring. She would also irrevocably waive her rights to contest extradition from France or England, the two countries other than the U.S. where Maxwell holds citizenship.

Prosecutors countered that GPS monitoring would offer "little value for a defendant who poses such a significant flight risk because it does nothing to prevent the defendant's flight once it has been removed. At best, home confinement and electronic monitoring would reduce a defendant's head start after cutting the bracelet." And they contended that her proposed waivers to contest extradition would likely be "unenforceable and effectively meaningless" if she were to flee.

Maxwell's lawyers will have one more opportunity to counter the prosecution's argument for her continued detention. They've asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to schedule a hearing next week on her renewed bail package. Nathan has not yet committed to a hearing and may issue her decision solely on the written arguments.

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