Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty on Friday to new charges of sex trafficking for her former boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein.
This was the first time Ms Maxwell has appeared in court in person since she was arrested.
Ms Maxwell, 59, has been charged multiple times with trafficking underage girls for Epstein, a convicted sex criminal who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial. On Friday she pleaded not guilty once again, this time to new charges regarding an additional alleged victim.
After the arraignment, a lawyer for Ms Maxwell spoke outside the courthouse.
“Ghislaine is in very, very, very difficult conditions – conditions none of us would wish on our worst enemies,” attorney David Markus said. “She’s looking forward to fighting, and she will fight.”
Mr Markus added that Ms Maxwell’s sister was in court that day to support her, but her brothers couldn’t make it because of Covid-19 restrictions. “They are behind their sister 100 per cent,” he said.
Ms Maxwell’s defence team has long accused her Brooklyn jail of treating her inhumanely. On Friday, Mr Markus reiterated that claim, saying she is held under harsh conditions because of her association with Epstein.
“It’s the Epstein effect,” he said. “She shouldn’t be treated like this, and it’s not fair, and it’s not right.”
A lawyer for the prosecution disagreed. “I don’t believe that there is any credible evidence on any basis whatsoever to assert that Ms Maxwell is the victim,” David Boies said outside the courthouse, denouncing what he called a “media blitz” by the defence.
“I do not believe that that is productive for them, I do not believe that that is fair to the real victims here, and I think it is highly undesirable,” Mr Boies added.
One of Epstein and Ms Maxwell’s alleged victims, who did not identify herself, spoke as well.
“It’s incredibly vindicating to see her sit there,” she said, noting that she had been too afraid to attend Epstein’s trial. “It’s hard to sit through it, and it’s painful, but it’s good, too. It’s healing.”
Prosecutors say Ms Maxwell “enticed and groomed” minors by normalising their abuse through “discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.
The trial is set to begin on 12 July, but Ms Maxwell’s lawyers are seeking a delay to the start of the hearing to review thousands of “highly confidential” photos submitted as evidence.
The defence has requested three times to release Ms Maxwell on bail, and all three times, US district judge Alison J Nathan has turned them down.