Ghislaine Maxwell requests new trial after juror revealed abuse

Maxwell lawyers say ‘incontrovertible grounds’ for new trial after a juror shared personal abuse story in deliberations.

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, right, sits with her mask off during a break in her sex trafficking trial.
Ghislaine Maxwell, right, was convicted on sex trafficking charges for recruiting underage girls for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein [File: Elizabeth Williams via AP]

Ghislaine Maxwell has formally requested a new trial, less than a month after her conviction on sex trafficking charges.

The British socialite’s lawyers raised concern about a juror’s possible failure to disclose before the trial that he was sexually abused as a child.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted on December 29 on five counts of sex trafficking and other crimes for recruiting and grooming teenage girls to have sexual encounters with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell, who had pleaded not guilty, faces up to 65 years in prison.

In a Wednesday letter to US District Judge Alison J Nathan, Maxwell lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said the motion for a new trial had been filed under seal and requested that all submissions related to “Juror No. 50 remain under seal until the Court rules”.

The motion for a new trial had been promised by Maxwell’s lawyers, who had raised concerns about media interviews following the verdict in which the juror said he had been sexually abused as a child.

Nathan had set a Wednesday deadline for Maxwell’s lawyers to file for a new trial, and said prosecutors should reply by February 2.

Maxwell’s lawyers said this month there were “incontrovertible grounds” for a new trial after the juror, who asked to be identified by his first and middle names, Scotty David, told Reuters and other news media that he described being abused as a child during jury deliberations.

The anonymous juror said in interviews that his experience helped him convince some jurors that a victim’s imperfect memory of sex abuse does not mean it did not happen.

The main jury panel sits in the jury box waiting to be dismissed after deliberating during Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial.
The jury deliberated for five days before convicting Ghislaine Maxwell on sex trafficking charges in December [File: Elizabeth Williams via AP]

Maxwell’s lawyers had previously said the request for a new trial would include all known undisputed remarks of the juror, along with recorded statements and the questionnaire all jurors filled out. Potential jurors were asked to fill out a questionnaire asking, “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?”

Quoting from the press reports in a letter, prosecutors said the juror asserted that he “flew through” the questionnaire and did not recall being asked if he had been a victim of sex abuse. Prosecutors called for any juror investigation to be “conducted exclusively under the supervision of the Court”. The juror himself has retained a lawyer.

Maxwell has maintained she is innocent, and her family promised an appeal of her conviction. Her lawyers vigorously fought the charges against her during trial, arguing that she was being used as a scapegoat by prosecutors determined to hold someone accountable for Epstein’s crimes after the financier and convicted sex offender killed himself while awaiting trial in 2019.

Legal experts told the Reuters news agency that Maxwell would not be guaranteed a new trial even if the juror did not disclose his abuse on the questionnaire, noting that cases of juror dishonesty that led to verdicts being overturned generally involved jurors who deliberately lied in order to be selected.

Nathan last week scheduled Maxwell’s sentencing hearing for June 28.

Epstein killed himself in 2019 at the age of 66 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.

Source: News Agencies