Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty to new sex trafficking counts

Peter HUTCHISON
·3-min read

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty to new sex trafficking charges as she appeared in court in person on Friday for the first time since her arrest last summer.

The 59-year-old is accused of recruiting underage girls for her former partner, the disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial.

Maxwell, wearing a blue jail shirt, appeared frail and noticeably older as she walked in to the Manhattan federal court where she was arraigned on a new superseding indictment that prosecutors filed last month.

The indictment added a new accuser and extended the time frame of her alleged offenses by seven years.

Maxwell faces six counts, including sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.

The alleged crimes occurred between 1994 and 2004, and relate to four women, including two who prosecutors say were just 14 years old when they were sexually abused.

The counts are stronger than the earlier charges, which refer to "enticement" and "transportation" of minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

Maxwell spoke just three times during the brief hearing, including to say "Yes, your honor" and "I have, your honor" when asked if she had been made aware of the charges.

She also waived her right to have the charges read out to her in court.

At one point she appeared to wave at someone in court, where her sister Isabel was present.

The daughter of late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell denies all the allegations against her. Maxwell's lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Her trial is due to begin on July 12, although her defense team is pushing for more time to prepare.

Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if convicted.

She allegedly befriended girls with shopping and movie theater outings, and later coaxed them into giving Epstein nude massages during which he would engage in sex acts.

- 'Painful' -

Prosecutors say Maxwell sometimes participated in the alleged abuse, which occurred at her London home and at Epstein's properties in Manhattan, Palm Beach and New Mexico.

She has also been charged with two counts of perjury, which are due to be tried after her sex crimes trial.

The perjury counts relate to testimony she gave in 2016 in a defamation case filed against her by long-time Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre.

Maxwell has been denied bail three times since her arrest in July last year.

She has repeatedly complained of filthy conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where she is being held.

"She's not suicidal. She shouldn't be treated like this," said one of her attorneys, David Markus, outside court.

"It's only because of the horrible Epstein effect," he added.

Epstein, 66, was a multimillion-dollar hedge fund manager who befriended countless celebrities over the years, including former president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.

His suicide deprived dozens of his accusers their day in court and launched countless conspiracy theories, with prosecutors vowing to pursue co-conspirators.

"It was painful but it is healing," said Danielle Bensky, who had accused Epstein of abuse, after attending Friday's hearing.

"After not having a trial for Epstein, yes I do think it will provide some closure for the victims," she added of Maxwell's upcoming trial.

Maxwell's arrest intensified the spotlight on Andrew, who vehemently denies claims he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured by Epstein.

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