U.S. judge opens bail hearing for Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell

By Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Brendan Pierson NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S.

Reuters July 15, 2020 00:15:39 IST
U.S. judge opens bail hearing for Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell

US judge opens bail hearing for Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell

By Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge began a hearing on Tuesday to decide whether to grant bail to Jeffrey Epstein's longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been charged with luring young girls so the late financier could sexually abuse them.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan presided over the arraignment and bail hearing for Maxwell, who prosecutors have accused of helping Epstein recruit and eventually abuse girls from 1994 to 1997 and lying about her role in depositions in 2016.

"Good afternoon, judge," said Maxwell, who appeared by video from the Brooklyn jail where she is being held. Maxwell had her hair pulled back and was wearing a brown T-shirt and tortoiseshell glasses.

"We are here today for the arraignment, initial scheduling conference and bail hearing," the judge said.

Maxwell, 58, is expected to plead not guilty to six criminal charges, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts and two for perjury.

The wealthy socialite's lawyers sought a bail package including a $5 million bond and home confinement with electronic monitoring. Prosecutors wanted Maxwell to remain in detention and opposed her bid for bail, calling her an "extreme" flight risk with no reason to stay in the United States.

Prosecutors said her wealth and multiple citizenships - American, French and British - also supported the need for detention.

Maxwell, Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate, was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding out at a 156-acre (63 hectares) property she bought in December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded. Maxwell has been held since July 6 at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a Brooklyn jail.

Epstein was charged in July 2019 with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women from 2002 to 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He hanged himself on Aug. 10 at age 66 in a Manhattan jail.

Prosecutors accused Maxwell of luring girls as young as 14 by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies - acts, they said, that served as "the prequel" to Epstein's abuse. Epstein has been linked socially to several powerful figures including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.

Lawyers for Maxwell also said bail was justified because she might contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in jail.

Lawyers for Maxwell said she moved to the New Hampshire property and changed her phone and email address in order to escape "unrelenting and intrusive media coverage." Prosecutors said on Monday that when FBI agents went to arrest Maxwell, they had to forcibly enter her home, where she hid in an interior room, and found a cellphone wrapped in tin foil in an apparent effort to evade detection.

Maxwell also used former British military personnel to guard her in New Hampshire, prosecutors said.

Her lawyers have previewed Maxwell's possible defenses.

These include that her alleged misconduct occurred long ago and would be hard to prosecute, and that she was shielded by Epstein's 2007 plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami, which covered "any potential co-conspirators."

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Brendan Pierson in New York; Writing by Tom Hals; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Will Dunham)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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