October 31, 2020

Ghislaine Maxwell Asks For Release as Lawyers Say She’s “Not Jeffrey Epstein”

Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, sought to distance her from the disgraced financier on Thursday, saying in a new court filing that the two had no contact for more than a decade before his death in August 2019.

The filing said that her attempts over the last year to avoid detection were not meant to evade law enforcement, but to protect herself against “unrelenting and intrusive media coverage.” She has seen reporters hiding in her bushes and hired personal security guards in response to death threats, according to her lawyers.

“Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” they wrote.

On Thursday, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers asked a federal judge in Manhattan to release her from jail on $5 million bond, arguing that she did not pose a flight risk and had not been hiding from the authorities.

In proposing to release her into home confinement, her lawyers offered to secure the bond with six co-signers, including two of her sisters, and with property in the United Kingdom worth more than $3.75 million.

Ms. Maxwell, 58, has been in federal custody since her arrest eight days ago in Bradford, N.H., where the authorities said she lived most recently on a 156-acre property acquired in an all-cash purchase in December.

The indictment against Ms. Maxwell charged that from 1994 to 1997, she helped Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse girls who were as young as 14 years old. The charges listed three unidentified minors during that time period who were victims of the alleged scheme.

Ms. Maxwell, once a fixture on New York’s social scene, also had participated in some of the abuse and lied about her conduct when questioned under oath in 2016 in a lawsuit, the indictment said.

Ms. Maxwell is scheduled to appear on Tuesday before a Manhattan federal judge who will decide whether she should be released pending trial.

She is charged with six counts, including enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and perjury. Her bail request was the first time her lawyers have substantively responded to the indictment.

Ms. Maxwell has not yet entered a plea, but her lawyers wrote in Thursday’s filing that she “has always vehemently denied that she was involved in illegal or improper conduct related to Epstein.”

After Ms. Maxwell’s arrest, an F.B.I. official said at a news conference that the authorities had been tracking her movements and learned recently that she had moved to a mansion on the New Hampshire property.

In an initial memo seeking her detention, prosecutors said she was hiding in various locations in New England and intentionally sought to avoid detection, switching her email address and registering a new phone number under the name “G Max.”

The prosecutors said Ms. Maxwell — who is a citizen of the United States, France and Britain — had three passports and posed “an extreme risk of flight.” They also said they had identified more than 15 bank accounts linked to her, whose total balance at times exceeded $20 million.

Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers disputed the notion that she was likely to flee if granted bail.

They said that the day after Mr. Epstein’s arrest in July 2019, her lawyers reached out to federal prosecutors and “maintained regular contact with them right up to the point of her arrest.”

Ms. Maxwell’s decision to move residences and change her phone and email address had nothing to do with trying to hide or evade prosecution, they said. Rather, these were all part of her efforts to protect herself, her family and friends from what they called an “onslaught of press articles, television specials and social media posts painting her in the most damning light possible and prejudging her guilt.”

They noted that last November, the British tabloid The Sun even offered a bounty of 10,000 British pounds for information about her location.

“Far from ‘hiding’,” they wrote, Ms. Maxwell had lived in the United States since 1991 and had not left the country since Mr. Epstein’s arrest last year, even though she was aware of the government’s highly publicized criminal investigation.

Mr. Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on federal sex-trafficking charges. An indictment accused him of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of girls and women at his mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his estate in Palm Beach, Fla. and other sites.

The indictment did not name Ms. Maxwell.

A month after his arrest, in August 2019, Mr. Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan.

The spotlight shifted to Ms. Maxwell following Mr. Epstein’s death, when prosecutors said they would continue to investigate his associates. Since her arrest, Ms. Maxwell has been housed the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Despite Ms. Maxwell’s assertion that she’d had no contact with Mr. Epstein for more than a decade before his death, the government’s bail filing said bank accounts linked to Ms. Maxwell had engaged in transactions with bank accounts linked to Mr. Epstein as recently as 2011.

On Thursday, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers offered a preview of their defense, saying that the sex abuse charges against her were legally flawed because the alleged conduct happened roughly 25 years ago. “It is inherently more difficult to prosecute cases relating to decades-old conduct,” they wrote.

The indictment does not accuse Ms. Maxwell of committing any sex crimes after 1997, although prosecutors could add new charges in the coming months. Federal laws allow the government to prosecute sex offenses committed against minors at any point in the victim’s lifetime.