In Ghislaine Maxwell’s telling, the conditions in her Brooklyn jail are oppressive. Guards with flashlights rouse her every 15 minutes to check whether she’s breathing. She is subjected to constant surveillance and to frequent strip searches. In her own cell away from other prisoners, she has been deprived of food and sleep, and she is unable to communicate with friends or family.
But on Friday, federal prosecutors contended that Maxwell didn’t have it so bad. She is released from her cell for 13 hours a day. She has her own shower, her own phone and exclusive use of two computers — even her own TV.
“Those conditions set her far apart from general population inmates, not to mention other inmates in protective custody,” the government wrote in a new court filing opposing Maxwell’s latest request to be released from jail — this time on a $28.5 million bond.
Maxwell, the longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, is awaiting trial on charges that she contributed to his abuse of teenage girls — one as young as 14 — more than two decades ago. Prosecutors said Maxwell, 58, had participated in some of the abuse.
Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty, was originally denied bail after she was arrested over the summer on grounds that she might flee. She has been in custody ever since and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Brooklyn, New York.
In her new bail request, which was made public Monday, Maxwell’s lawyers proposed that she leave what they called “intolerable” jail conditions and be released into house arrest at a friend’s home in New York City, with private security guards to keep her from fleeing.
Maxwell’s proposed $28.5 million bail package — secured by money and property — reflects “all of her and her spouse’s assets, her family’s livelihood, and the financial security of her closest friends and family,” her lawyers wrote.
Maxwell and her husband, whom the court records do not identify, offered up $22.5 million of the total bail package.
In seeking bail unsuccessfully in July, Maxwell, once a fixture on New York’s social scene, proposed a $5 million bond.
Maxwell’s lawyers, as they did over the summer, again assured the judge, Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, that their client was not a flight risk, as prosecutors have argued.
Maxwell had spent months in hiding in a home in New Hampshire after Epstein’s death, which prosecutors said was evidence that she was trying to evade detection by law enforcement. Her lawyers maintained that Maxwell was merely trying to avoid relentless scrutiny by the news media.
“Ms. Maxwell vehemently maintains her innocence and is committed to defending herself,” her lawyers wrote in their new bail request. “She wants nothing more than to remain in this country to fight the allegations against her.”
Epstein, 66, was found dead in August 2019, a month after his arrest, after he hanged himself in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
The prosecutors, in their filing on Friday, reiterated arguments they made over the summer that Maxwell posed “an extreme flight risk” and that she should remain in jail.
They also dismissed claims by Maxwell’s lawyers that the evidence against their client was not as strong as the prosecutors had said.
Offering a window into how Maxwell’s trial might unfold in court, the prosecutors said that three victims were prepared to provide detailed testimony about Maxwell’s role “in Epstein’s criminal scheme to sexually abuse them as minors.”
In court, each victim would explain how “the presence of an adult woman manipulated her into entering an abusive situation,” the prosecutors wrote.
Each would describe how Maxwell befriended them, expressed an interest in their lives and then normalized abusive sexual behavior with Epstein.
The “evidence confirms that the government’s case remains as strong as it was at the time of the defendant’s arrest,” the government said.
If convicted, prosecutors said, Maxwell would face up to 35 years in prison.
The dispute over Maxwell’s living conditions has been continuing. Last month, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, Bobbi Sternheim, wrote that her client had spent the entirety of her pretrial detention in “de facto solitary confinement under the most restrictive conditions where she is excessively and invasively searched and is monitored 24 hours per day.”
Weeks later, in a letter sent Dec. 7 to the judge, Sternheim argued that Maxwell had been an exemplary detainee and that the Bureau of Prisons had imposed “extraordinarily onerous conditions” of confinement on her to avoid “the catastrophic consequences of negligence” that led to Epstein’s jailhouse suicide.
Attorney General William Barr has said Epstein’s death resulted from “a perfect storm of screw-ups” at the jail.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company