Maxwell seeks new trial after juror reveals he was a sex abuse victim

Ghislaine Maxwell attends the ETM Children’s Benefit Gala in New York on May 6, 2014. Rob Kim/Getty Images/TNS

Ghislaine Maxwell’s legal team is calling for a new trial after one of the jurors who convicted her last week of five of six counts related to child sex trafficking told reporters he was a victim of sexual abuse and had convinced other jurors to convict Maxwell.

Earlier, federal prosecutors who had presided over the case had asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to conduct an inquiry into the juror’s statements and hold a hearing in a month. They also asked that the court ask the juror if he would like the court to appoint him a lawyer.

In a subsequent letter, members of Maxwell’s legal team requested that Nathan call for a new trial “without any evidentiary hearing,” writing that they believed the statements by the juror, the questionnaire and “other non-controverted facts,” should be deemed sufficient basis for a new trial.

“It is clear to Ms. Maxwell that based on this record alone a new trial is required,” wrote attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca.

At issue is whether the juror had indicated that he was a victim of sexual abuse, as all potential jurors were asked on their juror questionnaire. During the jury selection process, prosecutors and defense attorneys can request to remove potential jurors that they believe would be biased.

The juror, who asked to be identified by his first and middle names Scotty David, first spoke with the Independent newspaper and later told Reuters that he “flew through” the juror questionnaire and did not recall any follow-up questions about sexual abuse during the process known as voir dire where jurors are questioned about their answers, but that he would have answered honestly about his experiences.

Maxwell attorney Christian Everdell wrote, in a heavily redacted letter, that the revelation “presents incontrovertible grounds for a new trial.”

Legal experts say not necessarily.

David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said that it depends on what the juror answered on his questionnaire and what his intentions were and, if he did not indicate that he had been a victim of sexual abuse, whether the omission was intentional.

“This is not the smoking gun, the shot to the center of the bull’s-eye that everyone thinks it is,” he said.

Jurors were asked on the questionnaire, “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?”

If the juror had checked that he had been a victim and was selected as a juror anyway, Weinstein said he doesn’t believe Maxwell would have much of a case for requesting a new trial or getting the verdict thrown out on appeal.

However, if he did not indicate that he had been a victim of abuse, it would come down to a question of whether or not he had deliberately withheld the information. If the omission was inadvertent, Weinstein said he thought Maxwell’s team would still face an uphill battle to get the verdict thrown out. If it was deliberate, however, he thinks it will likely lead to a new trial.

Maxwell has maintained her innocence and her family and legal team indicated that they were already at work on an appeal of the conviction before the juror’s revelations.

If the verdict is upheld, Maxwell faces the prospect of decades in prison. Prosecutors said that she had recruited four girls -- two as young as 14 -- to be sexually abused by her then-boyfriend, the deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein’s many victims had expressed frustration after the multimillionaire financial adviser died in federal custody in August 2019, in what has been ruled a suicide. He had been arrested on sex trafficking charges the month before after prosecutors re-examined his alleged crimes following a 2018 Miami Herald investigation “Perversion of Justice” into the remarkably lenient plea deal he struck with federal prosecutors in Florida a decade earlier.

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