Ghislaine Maxwell to appear in person for first time since her arrest as she pleads to new charges

Josie Ensor
·4-min read
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Federal Court in New York - Reuters
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Federal Court in New York - Reuters

Ghislaine Maxwell is set to appear in person for the first time since her arrest last year in a New York court on Friday, where she is expected to plead not guilty to new sex trafficking charges.

Ms Maxwell was granted rare permission to attend the usually procedural court hearing by Judge Alison Nathan.

The 59-year-old British socialite has already pleaded not guilty to charges of recruiting and grooming teenage girls from 1994 to 2004 to provide sexual massages to her one-time boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein. The latest allegation are more serious, involving the sex trafficking of a minor.

Ms Maxwell’s lawyers have been claiming for months that she has lost weight and that her hair has been falling out as a result of the “Kafkaesque” prison conditions in a Brooklyn federal prison. On Friday it will become clear what toll the last nine months in prison has taken.

Ian Maxwell has been campaigning for his sister's release
Ian Maxwell has been campaigning for his sister's release

Should they attend, it will also be the first time she sees her husband and members of her family since she was arrested in a dawn raid on her home in New Hampshire last July.

It is not known who will attend, but her twin sisters, Isabel and Christine, are both residents of the US. Her brother, Ian, who after months of silence last month launched a PR campaign to get his sister freed from custody, was unable to travel from the UK due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Little has been seen of Ms Maxwell's husband Scott Borgerson since the 44-year-old stepped down from his tech company CargoMetrics to avoid being a “distraction”.

Due to the coronavirus most hearings in the Southern District of New York are taking place via Zoom or through a dial-in phone line.

However, Ms Maxwell requested to appear in person after a January hearing held by videolink was hijacked by 14,000 QAnon conspiracy theorists who illegally streamed the proceedings on YouTube.

Those present in the courtroom are required to undergo strict temperature checks and made to wear two masks.

Sources close to the Maxwell family also told The Telegraph that Friday’s appearance was about her wanting to “face her accusers head on”, as well as it being a welcome break from her prison cell at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.

Robert Maxwell with his wife Elizabeth, his son, Ian and his daughter, Ghislaine in 1990 - www.bridgemanimages.com 
Robert Maxwell with his wife Elizabeth, his son, Ian and his daughter, Ghislaine in 1990 - www.bridgemanimages.com

Ms Maxwell’s legal team has applied for bail and been rejected three times.

Judge Nathan ruled that with three passports and considerable assets she continued to be a significant flight risk.

In the latest appeal, Ms Maxwell even offered to rescind her British and French citizenship in order to leave prison to prepare for her trial at home.

Appealing to a higher court, her lawyers told the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals that Ms Maxwell has not been given an adequate opportunity to prove that she would not flee if she was allowed to await trial at home under 24-hour armed guard and with collateral posted to support a $28.5 million (£20m) bail.

The bond - one of the largest in US history - comes from joint funds from Mr Borgerson, as well as money put up by family members and friends.

Ms Maxwell has claimed she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes and that her continued detention is a form of “sexism”, pointing to the release on bail of a number of notable men who faced comparable charges, including Bernie Madoff, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Ms Maxwell’s team has also complained about the conditions of her detention, which brother Ian calls “tantamount to torture”.

They say she is housed in a 6ft by 9ft cell with a concrete bed, that guards shine a torch into her room at intervals of 15 minutes through the night and that the prison food is “inedible”.

They believe the constant surveillance is a result of prison authorities’ fears that she may take her own life like the former financier, who was arrested in July 2019 on sex charges and was later found dead of suicide in his jail cell.

Her attorneys refer to the "Epstein Effect," suggesting the public outrage over Epstein's alleged crimes and subsequent death have "clouded the judgment of the prosecutors into charging Ms Maxwell because it needed a scapegoat."

David Markus, Ms Maxwell’s lawyer, is also due to make a statement to the court, over the “legality” of her detainment.

Her trial is set for July 12, however, her lawyers have requested that it be delayed until next January, saying the new charges require months of investigation.