Judge: $28.5M bail package for Epstein ex not a close call

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FILE – In this July 2, 2020, file photo, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, one of Maxwell’s attorneys said that her client is awakened every 15 minutes in jail while she sleeps to ensure she’s breathing. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A $28.5 bail package proposed by lawyers for the late Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend only strengthened the reasoning for keeping her locked up until her July trial, a judge said in a written ruling unsealed Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan in Manhattan made the observation while explaining her reasons for denying bail earlier this week for Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of Epstein, the wealthy financier and convicted sex offender. She initially sealed the decision, but released it after lawyers requested no redactions.

Maxwell, 59, was arrested in July at a $1 million New Hampshire estate on charges alleging she recruited three teenage girls in the mid-1990s for Epstein to sexually abuse. An indictment also alleged Maxwell sometimes joined the abuse. She has pleaded not guilty and faces a July trial.

Nathan denied bail at a July hearing. Defense lawyers recently asked for bail again, saying Maxwell has pledged her $22.5 million in assets plus millions more from friends and family. They cited her 4-year-old marriage as evidence of strong U.S. ties.

Nathan rejected the new bail proposal, which would include 24-hour armed guards and electronic monitoring, for the same reasons she rejected the original proposal.

The judge noted the charges carry a presumption of detention before trial and could result in a long prison term.

She described the evidence as strong and cited Maxwell’s substantial resources and foreign ties, along with citizenship in France, which does not extradite its citizens, to go with her citizenship in the United Kingdom and the U.S.

She also noted that Maxwell was captured while hiding in Massachusetts, away from the family “to whom she now asserts important ties,” and was not fully candid about her financial situation.

“But by and large, the arguments presented either were made at the initial bail hearing or could have been made then,” Nathan wrote. “In any event, the new information provided in the renewed application only solidifies the Court’s view that the Defendant plainly poses a risk of flight and that no combination of conditions can ensure her appearance.”

The judge said proof of Maxwell’s ties to the United States was strengthened by letters from family and friends, including a husband whose identity was not revealed in court papers.

She noted that Maxwell wasn’t living with him in July and claimed they were getting divorced. Nathan added that Maxwell doesn’t propose living with him now, “undercutting her argument that that relationship would create an insurmountable burden to her fleeing.”

Nathan said Maxwell misrepresented important facts to court workers after her arrest, including the value of her assets and her ties to the New Hampshire property where she was arrested.

She said the misrepresentations, which have been made clear with the new bail application, and the “lack of candor raises significant concerns as to whether the Court has now been provided a full and accurate picture of her finances and as to the Defendant’s willingness to abide by any set of conditions of release.”

Maxwell’s lawyers had also cited onerous jail conditions for Maxwell, including searches by guards who also wake her up every 15 minutes when she sleeps, perhaps a reaction to the fact Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan lockup in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. They also maintain she faces a threat from the coronavirus.

Nathan said the increase in infections from the coronavirus at the Brooklyn facility where Maxwell is housed was “truly alarming,” but added that Maxwell has no underlying health conditions that put her at higher risk.

A message seeking comment was sent to defense lawyers. Prosecutors declined comment.

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