British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex smuggling underage girls for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in late December, but her sentencing is now in doubt after two jurors revealed they had been sexually abused.
After spending his 60th birthday on Christmas Day in a cell in New York City, Maxwell, described in court as Epstein’s “partner in crime”, was found guilty of babysitting children for the disgraced billionaire financier to rape in the 90s and early 2000s.
But since her conviction on December 29, two members of the jury have said they had shared their experiences of being abused with the rest of the advisory jury – and her lawyers are demanding a new trial.
What happened in Maxwell’s trial?
During Maxwell’s month-long high-profile trial in a packed federal court in Manhattan, a jury heard testimonies from four women who said they were sexually abused as teenagers in Epstein’s homes in Florida, New York and Mexico.
Maxwell was found guilty of five of the six counts she had been charged with, including the transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking with minors. She was found not guilty of having lured a minor to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts.
The socialist, who was Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, risks up to 65 years in prison and was expected to appeal his sentence. The U.S. government, which is pursuing the case, has said a sentencing date should be set at three to four months.
What have jurors revealed since?
Over the past few weeks, two jurors have commented on how they shared their own experience of being sexually abused during the deliberations.
The first to ask to be identified only by his first and middle name, Scotty David, told reporters he shared his experience with other jurors as they were unsure of the accuracy of two of the prosecution’s testimonies they had heard.
He said he remembered the most important elements of what happened to him, but not every detail. It affected some jurors, he said. Scotty has since hired attorney Todd Spodek to represent him.
Another juror who spoke with New York Times on condition of anonymity, appeared shortly after to say she had also shared her experience of abuse as jurors considered whether to convict Maxwell or not.
What do Maxwell’s lawyers say?
After Scotty David revealed he was a victim of sexual abuse, Maxwell’s lawyers called for a new trial in which Christian Everdell wrote to Judge Alison Nathan, who oversaw the case, saying there were “indisputable reasons” that the verdict was overturned and for his client to get the chance for a new trial.
He called the case “a matter of urgency,” said revelations from juries “influenced the deliberations and persuaded other members of the jury to convict Mrs Maxwell.” Everdell filed the letter shortly after asking Judge Nathan to initiate an investigation into the jurors’ statements.
The judge’s decision on whether a new trial is justified may depend on how the juries responded to questions during the jury selection about his experiences of sexual abuse, which legal experts said was a key issue defense attorneys looked at to weed out potentially biased juries.
Scotty David told Reuters on Tuesday that he “flew through” the form and could not remember a question that asked him if he was a victim of sexual abuse.
Is she getting a new trial?
Prosecutors said it would be willing to drop Maxwell’s outstanding charges of perjury if her sex trafficking conviction was upheld.
The charges of perjury relate to allegations that the convicted sex smuggler lied about her knowledge of Epstein’s behavior during clarifications in 2016 for a separate civil case brought against her by the Duke of York’s prosecutor, Virginia Giuffre. Each indictment has a maximum prison sentence of five years.
In the letter Monday night to U.S. District Judge Alison, Judge Nathan, prosecutors said the dismissal of the two cases of perjury would reflect the victims’ “significant interests in ending this case and avoiding the trauma of testifying again.”
Lawyers for Maxwell said in the joint letter that they are opposed to setting any timetable for sentencing, arguing that the revelations after the trial are a “convincing basis” for overturning their client’s verdict and giving a new trial.
Judge Nathan gave Maxwell’s lawyers until Jan. 19 to formally explain why the verdict should be overturned. The prosecution has until February 2 to respond.
According to legal experts quoted by Reuters, a jury’s failure to disclose information is no guarantee that a verdict will be overturned. They noted that many cases where a verdict was overturned involved the deliberate omission of information from a jury to try to get on the panel.
“The system is not in favor of overturning judgments. We value finality, “said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, adding that the judge has” broad discretion “in this case.