Less than 24 hours before Ghislaine Maxwell will be in a courtroom with prospective jurors who will decide her fate in a Manhattan federal court sex trafficking case, the former British socialite appeared notably at ease during a proceeding on Monday morning.
One woman, who identified herself as a family member to a court security officer, waved at Maxwell shortly before proceedings started. She carried a yellow legal pad and scribbled notes throughout the proceeding.
Maxwell, her lawyers and prosecutors were appearing before Judge Alison Nathan to discuss the logistics of questioning potential jurors.
Of the roughly 600 people who completed questionnaires earlier this month, Nathan said that Maxwell’s lawyers and prosecutors agreed on 231 who should be called back for further questioning. “I believe that’s a sufficient number,” Nathan said.
Nathan also said she hoped that they would question 50 possible panelists a day, divided into morning and afternoon sessions. Virtually all questioning of potential jurors will be public, Nathan has said.
Maxwell, an alleged accomplice in the late, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor teens, appeared in good spirits when the proceeding ended around 10.30am, laughing as she spoke with her attorneys. Several of her lawyers rubbed her shoulders supportively.
Maxwell sported a black turtleneck and gray slacks as she was escorted into courtroom 518 of the Thurgood Marshall US courthouse about 9.40am – the first time she has appeared in court wearing something other than shapeless jail scrubs.
She wore black boot-like shoes rather than institutional slip-ons that appeared on her feet at prior court proceedings. She was neither handcuffed nor shackled, and carried a Poland Spring water bottle just like countless others do as they move around New York City.
Epstein was arrested in July 2019 for sex trafficking of minor teens; he killed himself in jail while awaiting trial. Maxwell was arrested one year after Epstein’s arrest – for her alleged role in procuring teenage girls for him between 1994 and 2004.
Audrey Strauss, acting Manhattan US attorney at the time, stated that Maxwell “played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims” and that “in some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse”.
Maxwell maintains that she is innocent. Opening arguments in Maxwell’s trial are expected to take place on 29 November. If convicted, Maxwell faces up to 80 years in federal prison.