Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty; trial date in flux

NEW YORK (AP) — Ghislaine Maxwell faced a judge in person for the first time Friday as lawyers squabbled over exactly when she should be tried on sex trafficking charges alleging that she procured teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse at his posh residences.

Maxwell, a British socialite and one-time girlfriend of Epstein, pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and an additional sex trafficking charge that were added in a rewritten indictment released last month by a Manhattan federal court grand jury. The new indictment stretched the timespan of the charges from three years to a decade.

Her lawyers maintain they need months of additional preparation because of the new charges, making it impossible to keep a July 12 trial date. Prosecutors have said the new charges should not require substantial additional work because they add a single victim to the three victims already described in the indictment.

The judge didn’t make an immediate decision on a possible new date for the trial, but told lawyers she wants to avoid a long delay.

Maxwell, 59, has been in custody at a federal lockup in Brooklyn since her arrest last July at a $1 million New Hampshire estate where her lawyers say she went to live to avoid the spotlight of media attention and to remain safe from threats. Prosecutors, though, say she took steps to hide her whereabouts and movements.

Maxwell has failed three times to be granted bail despite offering a $28.5 million package and agreeing to live with electronic monitoring and armed guards who would ensure she does not leave a New York City residence. The U.S. citizen also has offered to give up citizenship in the United Kingdom and France. A bail appeal hearing is scheduled next week before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In court documents, prosecutors say Maxwell recruited at least three teenage girls, including a 14-year-old, between 1994 and 1997 for Epstein to sexually abuse. The superseding indictment says another teenage girl was recruited in the early 2000s when she was 14. The indictment alleges Maxwell sometimes joined the abuse.

A lawyer for Maxwell requested the in-person arraignment Friday, citing “media coverage” and a “debacle” that occurred during a remote hearing in a related civil case before another judge when members of the public clogged up a line provided by the court for people outside the courthouse to listen to the proceeding.

Epstein took his own life at a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 while awaiting a sex-trafficking trial.

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