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‘Weird’ deal should have stopped Ghislaine Maxwell prosecution, lawyers claim

Disgraced British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell “should never have been prosecuted” due to a “weird” agreement drafted more than 15 years ago, her lawyers have told a court.

The 62-year-old was found guilty in December 2021 of luring young girls to massage rooms for paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein to molest between 1994 and 2004.

At an appeals court in the southern district of New York on Tuesday, her lawyer Diana Fabi Samson said a plea agreement Epstein reached with authorities in Florida in 2007, which “promised” his co-conspirators would not be prosecuted, should have prevented Maxwell’s prosecution.

Ghislaine Maxwell court case
Maxwell was convicted of luring young girls to massage rooms for Epstein to molest (US Department of Justice/PA)

Lawyers acting on behalf of the US Government contested that there was no “affirmative intent” for the non-prosecution agreement relied on by Maxwell to “bind” any districts other than Florida.

The judge panel said it would reserve judgment in the case.

Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison at the federal court in the southern district of New York in June 2022.

Her legal team have previously submitted written arguments which claimed her victims had “faded, distorted and motivated memories”.

During her three-week trial, jurors heard prosecutors describe Maxwell as “dangerous”, and were told details of how she helped entice vulnerable teenagers to Epstein’s various properties for him to sexually abuse.

But her legal team have previously submitted that she did not have a fair trial after it emerged one of the jurors, Scotty David, failed to disclose he had been sexually abused in his pre-trial questionnaire.

The hearing on Tuesday solely focused on the plea agreement, and setting out her arguments, Ms Fabi Samson said: “In the end Ms Maxwell was prosecuted for crimes that she, as a third party beneficiary to the plea agreement in Florida, should not have been prosecuted.”

In response to Maxwell’s lawyer, US Government attorney Andrew Rohrbach said: “In general, the… report provides no evidence and no support for a suggestion that there is any affirmative intent to bind the southern district of New York or any other districts in the nation.”

Ghislaine Maxwell court case
Epstein was found dead in his prison cell in Manhattan in August 2019 (US Department of Justice/PA)

Ms Fabi Samson said Epstein’s legal team had told those who drafted the agreement at the time that the paedophile financier “wanted this co-conspirator clause so that no-one else would take the blame for what he did”.

She said: “The prosecutors that were questioned had no recollection of what they were thinking when they agreed and actually edited this co-conspirator clause.

“One thing they did say though, was that Mr Epstein’s counsel informed them that he wanted this co-conspirator clause so that no-one else would take the blame for what he did.

“They also said they had no interest in anyone else, no interest in prosecuting anyone else.”

Concluding her arguments, Ms Fabi Samson said: “The other point I would make is that everyone who is interviewed says this is a weird agreement.

“Weird, unusual, very unusual.”

US government lawyers previously said Maxwell’s appeal arguments “fall far short of establishing that sentencing judge Alison Nathan abused her discretion” in her decision not to overturn the jury’s verdict.

They have also said her sentence was not unfair and that her arguments to the contrary are “so cursory and undeveloped” that they should be dismissed.

Maxwell was convicted of five offences, including sex trafficking minors, conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She has been incarcerated since July 2020, despite numerous attempts from her defence counsel to have her released on bail.

Epstein was found dead in his cell at a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019 while he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges.

The death was ruled a suicide.