NEW YORK -- Financier Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend claims she is being prosecuted on sex abuse charges that could put her in prison for life because Epstein killed himself and prosecutors wanted a substitute to replace him with, lawyers said in newly unsealed court papers.
Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers challenged the case brought against their client last July on multiple grounds in papers filed last week and unsealed on Thursday with some redactions.
“One does not need to engage in complex analysis to understand what has happened here: the government has sought to substitute our client for Jeffrey Epstein, even if it means stretching — and ultimately exceeding — the bounds of the law,” the lawyers wrote in the Manhattan federal court documents.
“The government’s sudden zeal to prosecute Ms. Maxwell for alleged conduct with Epstein in the 1990s — conduct for which the government never even charged Epstein — follows a history that is both highly unusual and deeply troubling," they added.
Maxwell, 59, is scheduled for a July trial on charges that she recruited three teenage girls from 1994 to 1997 for Epstein to sexually abuse. Sometimes, prosecutors alleged, Maxwell joined in.
The charges against Maxwell came exactly a year after Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in Manhattan. He killed himself in a federal jail a month later.
Maxwell, who has citizenship in the U.S., the United Kingdom and France, has been held without bail after a judge rejected a $28.5 million bail proposal on the grounds that she had not been fully forthcoming about her finances and other matters and that she remained a threat to flee.
As part of the bail proposal, Maxwell disclosed that she has set aside more than $7 million to be spent on lawyers out of $22.5 million in assets belonging to herself and her husband.
In documents released publicly last week and Thursday, Maxwell's lawyers attacked the government's case on multiple grounds, including that a grand jury seated in suburban Westchester County deprived her of nonwhite grand jurors who would otherwise have decided her fate.
They also said perjury charges stemming from her testimony in two depositions in 2016 in a since-settled civil case must be tossed out because the questions posed were ambiguous and the answers given were true.
Another of her unique challenges to the indictment pertained to a non-prosecution agreement Epstein signed with federal prosecutors in Florida a dozen years ago that spared him from charges as he pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge and served 13 months in prison. Her lawyers say Epstein intended for the document to protect any alleged co-conspirators, including Maxwell.
“The government is bound by the agreement it negotiated and executed,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the wording of the document was “clear, explicit, and unambiguous.”
The lawyers alleged that attorneys representing plaintiffs in civil litigation against Maxwell in 2016 met with a supervisor in the Manhattan federal prosecutor's office and pitched the idea that Maxwell could be charged criminally.
“The section chief appropriately declined,” the lawyers wrote.
They noted that prosecutors charged Epstein in 2019 months after a Miami Herald story drew new attention to the long running sexual attack claims against him by women, some of whom described being assaulted when they were as young as 14.
Again, the lawyers noted, Maxwell was not arrested.
They said prosecutors only went after Maxwell after Epstein's death and what then-Attorney General William Barr characterized as “a perfect storm of screw-ups” left the government embarrassed.
The lawyers wrote that the death caused media attention to shift from Epstein to Ms. Maxwell.
“She was portrayed as Epstein’s equal — if not his superior — and baselessly caricatured as a villain of near-mythical proportions,” the lawyers said. “In short, the government’s response to the media frenzy was not to adhere to its earlier objective analysis and consideration of the facts, but to feed the frenzy and substitute Ms. Maxwell for Epstein.”
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.