Ghislaine Maxwell to enter plea to sex trafficking charges



© Reuters. Jeff Pagliuca and Laura Menninger legal team for Ghislaine Maxwell arrive ahead of her arraignment on new indictment, in Manhattan Federal Courthouse, in the Manhattan borough of New York City

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell is scheduled on Friday to be arraigned on sex trafficking charges, and a federal judge may consider whether to delay the British socialite’s trial for helping the financier Jeffrey Epstein recruit and sexually abuse girls.

Maxwell, 59, is expected to enter her plea in person before U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan to the charges, which were included in an indictment unveiled on March 29.

Prosecutors have accused Maxwell of grooming and paying a girl who, starting at age 14, gave Epstein nude massages and engaged in sex acts with him from 2001 to 2004, and that the girl recruited others to offer erotic massages.

They previously had charged Maxwell with helping Epstein recruit and groom three other girls for him to sexually abuse from 1994 to 1997.

Maxwell had pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, which included two perjury counts.

Her trial is scheduled to begin on July 12. The perjury counts would be handled separately in a second trial.

Maxwell has been jailed in Brooklyn since her arrest last July. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 80 years in prison.

Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August 2019, one month after being arrested on sex trafficking charges.

OBJECTIONS

Maxwell’s lawyers have long complained about her inability to prepare effectively for a July 12 trial.

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They have cited the need to review “voluminous” amounts of evidence, blamed prosecutors for being too slow to turn over materials, and said jail restrictions have impeded Maxwell from adequately preparing her defense.

Prosecutors have opposed any delay, and pledged to make “significant efforts” to ensure that Maxwell was prepared for a July trial.

They said a delay would also harm the four alleged victims, saying two have reported significant stress from the case and expressed a desire to go to trial.

Even if no delay were granted, a July 12 start is not assured.

Only seven courtrooms in the Manhattan courthouse have been reconfigured for the COVID-19 pandemic to accommodate jury trials, according to a court spokesman.

Jailed defendants in criminal cases get higher priority for jury trials, but some defendants are ahead of Maxwell.

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