Courtroom dispatch: Ghislaine Maxwell makes first court appearance since last summer

·2-min read

Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty to new sex trafficking charges brought against her, as she appeared in court in person on Friday for the first time since last July, when she was arrested.

The once glamorous British socialite looked markedly changed as she stood in the Manhattan courtroom wearing dark blue scrubs. Her expression was both intense and stressed.

Her signature pixie haircut had grown out, the hair on the crown of her head had turned grey following almost a year spent behind bars in a Brooklyn jail.

Maxwell is accused of helping convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls. Epstein killed himself in jail in August 2019, while awaiting trial.

The 59-year-old was in a relationship with Epstein in the 1990s. She is accused, essentially, of working as his 'madame'; setting traps for young women and luring them into sex with Epstein and other powerful men.

The new charges she faces add another accuser and extend the time frame of her alleged offences by seven years.

Maxwell faces eight counts in total, including sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.

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

One of the most controversial aspects of this case is the alleged involvement of Britain's Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

One of Epstein’s numerous accusers, Virginia Giuffre, claims that Maxwell lured her into their world and forced her to have sex with several high-profile men, including the Duke of York, when she was just 17 years old.

Andrew and Buckingham Palace have denied the accusations.

Maxwell spoke just three times during the short hearing, including to say "Yes, your honour" when asked if she had been made aware of the charges.

Maxwell's older sister, Isabel, was in the courtroom dressed in a black beret, black coat, mask and dark sunglasses. She lowered her glasses for a moment, to catch her sister's eye.

Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter of the late British media tycoon, Robert Maxwell.

She denies all the allegations against her.

One of Epstein's alleged victims, Danielle Bensky, was also present in the courtroom on Friday.

After the hearing, Bensky spoke to FRANCE 24 about the trial. She said, "after not having a trial for Epstein... I do believe that it'll provide closure for the victims".

Maxwell's trial is set to begin on July 12 but her defence team is trying to stall the trial to give them more time to prepare. If they succeed, lawyers said the trial may not take place until March 2022.

Maxwell faces up to 80 years if convicted on all the charges.