Ghislaine Maxwell‘s lawyers argued in court papers Tuesday that the British socialite’s 20-year sentence for sex trafficking should be thrown out, or a new trial ordered, because of an agreement that federal prosecutors reached with Jeffery Epstein 15 years ago.
Maxwell, 61, is the former associate and girlfriend of Epstein — a registered sex offender — and was convicted for helping procure young women and teenage girls for Epstein and his clients to sexually abuse. Epstein died in an apparent suicide in prison while awaiting trial.
The filing submitted by Maxwell’s lawyers to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals argued that her conviction should be overturned because she should have been immune from prosecution.
It claims that prosecutors never should have been able to press their case against Maxwell because of a deal Epstein reached in September 2007 with federal prosecutors in Florida that protected not only himself from prosecution but “any potential coconspirators.”
That 2007 non-prosecution agreement arose after authorities investigated claims that women and girls were being abused at Epstein Palm Beach mansion.
Epstein, in exchange for immunity, pleaded guilty the next year to a Florida state prostitution charge and served 13 months in jail. That arrangement is now widely considered too lenient.
Maxwell’s appeal cited a slew of other judicial errors that she claims tainted her trial and revived an earlier, unsuccessful argument that Maxwell is being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes.
“The government prosecuted Ms Maxwell as a proxy for Jeffrey Epstein” to satisfy “public outrage,” wrote Maxwell’s lawyer Arthur Aidala. He added that prosecutors colluded with Maxwell’s accusers “to develop new allegations out of faded, distorted, and motivated memories.”
Maxwell’s lawyers also pointed out that one of the jurors in her trial later disclosed to reporters that he had failed to reveal he was a victim of child sex abuse even though he had been asked. They argued this was grounds to reverse the verdict.
And they wrote that Maxwell’s “deplorable conditions of confinement” at a federal jail in Brooklyn prior to trial left her “so disoriented and diminished that she was unable meaningfully to assist in her own defense, much less to testify.”
Maxwell is serving her 20-year sentence at a low-security penitentiary in Tallahassee and stands to be freed in July 2037 with credit for good behaviour and the two years she previously spent in jail during legal proceedings.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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