NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Ghislaine Maxwell deserves bail because her “horrific” jail conditions make it impossible to prepare for trial on charges she procured teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, her lawyer told a federal appeals court on Monday.
Her lawyer David Markus said it’s unfair to force Maxwell to review millions of pages of materials from behind bars, with guards waking her with flashlights every 15 minutes on a misplaced concern she might, like Epstein, commit suicide.
“We just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, so she can get ready for the trial of her life,” Markus told a panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. “It’s impossible to prepare for trial when you’re getting no sleep.”
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and groom three girls for sex from 1994 to 1997, and sex trafficking for grooming and paying a fourth girl for nude massages and sex acts with the financier from 2001 to 2004.
Maxwell has been jailed in Brooklyn since her July 2020 arrest at a million-dollar New Hampshire home that prosecutors called a hideout. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Two of three judges on the panel in Manhattan expressed concern over the lack of sleep but did not seem inclined to free Maxwell on bail before her July 12 trial. Bail has been rejected three times since her initial arrest last July. A district judge has said Maxwell was a “significant risk of flight” even with high bail.
“Is she a suicide risk or not?” Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz. “Has the BOP concluded she’s a suicide risk or is it some other reason why they’re shining lights all night long?”
Pomerantz said it was a routine guards employed to ensure inmates are breathing. She said guards shine light at the ceiling above where Maxwell sleeps rather than at her eyes when they check her breathing.
Her comment was challenged by Circuit Judge Pierre N. Leval, who repeatedly asked if Maxwell posed a suicide risk.
“Routine to shine a light into the eyes of every prisoner every 15 minutes during the night? Are you really telling us that?” he asked.
“Your honor, I can’t tell you what is done as to all inmates, but what I can say is that we have not been told that she is a suicide risk,” Pomerantz responded.
Attorney David Markus, representing Maxwell on appeal, said she is not suicidal.
“There’s no evidence she’s suicidal. Why is the Bureau of Prisons doing this? They’re doing it because Jeffrey Epstein died on their watch. And again, she’s not Jeffrey Epstein, this isn’t right,” Markus said.
Defense lawyers have complained that Maxwell is deteriorating in jail, where she is repeatedly searched and is filmed outside her cell. Prosecutors counter that she remains healthy and has been given accommodations other prisoners lack.
The judges also seemed concerned that Maxwell isn’t permitted to wear an eye mask that wraps securely around her head.
Markus said Maxwell puts a sock or towel over eyes so she can sleep at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
“The government used the word routine to say how Ms. Maxwell’s being treated in MDC. There is absolutely nothing routine about it. She’s being treated differently than any other inmate ever in that institution,” he said.
The British socialite is appealing District Judge Alison Nathan’s March 22 rejection of a $28.5 million bail package that included renouncing her British and French citizenships.
Federal prosecutor Lara Pomerantz told the three-judge appeals court panel that Nathan did not commit “clear error,” a high legal standard, in denying bail.
One judge asked whether prison officials not wanting to “risk another embarrassment” of another inmate’s suicide should let an independent psychiatrist evaluate Maxwell.
Pomerantz said Maxwell’s lawyers haven’t asked for one, and said Nathan has “actively” monitored her jail conditions to ensure she’ll be ready for trial.
The appeals court did not say when it will rule.
Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted. While the trial is scheduled for July, Maxwell wants it delayed until November or next January because of its complexity.
Reporting by Reuters’ Jonathan Stempel and AP’s Larry Neumeister. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.