In a surprise move, Ghislaine Maxwell and federal prosecutors are working together to keep a proposed questionnaire that would be used to screen potential jurors hidden from public view ahead of the British socialite’s trial, which is scheduled for November.
Maxwell has been charged with procuring underage girls for her friend, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
CNBC reported that prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a letter to federal Judge Alison Nathan explaining that Maxwell’s attorneys want the proposed questionnaire, as well as the oral questions that would be asked to potential jurors, kept hidden “to avoid media coverage that may prejudice the jury selection process.”
The prosecutors wrote that the “Government consents to the defense’s request.”
“In the same letter, prosecutors noted that the submission of proposed jury questions includes notations of objections Maxwell’s lawyers and prosecutors have with particular questions suggested by either party,” CNBC reported. “Jury questionnaires as a rule include queries about whether a potential juror has prior knowledge of a criminal case, from news articles or other sources, whether they know people connected to the case, and whether they or people they know have been victims of crimes.”
In their letter asking to keep the questionnaires secret, Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim bizarrely compared her client to Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“New York has been the venue for some of the most notorious events, including but hardly limited to the recent investigation and resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo and trials and convictions of Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly,” Sternheim wrote. “The fact that a woman now stands trial for charges almost exclusively alleged against men heightens the interest and intrigue of this case.”
Maxwell has been charged with numerous counts of sex trafficking underage girls as part of her role in allegedly procuring the girls for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, who died of an apparent suicide on August 10, 2019, after he was arrested and charged with the sex trafficking of minors. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.
As the New York Daily News reported, Sternheim’s letter also stated that the charges against her client deal with “sensational, hot-button social issues … sexual harassment and abuse of females of all ages, including inappropriate sexual contact with minors.”
Sternheim added that publicity surrounding jury selection could hurt Maxwell’s right to a fair trial.
It was not the first time Maxwell’s attorneys have made an odd connection to other people in the news. Back in December, Maxwell’s attorney Christian Everdell referenced the slain son of a New Jersey judge in an effort to keep Maxwell’s bail motion secret.
“As we have all been recently reminded with the tragic case of the death of Judge Esther Salas’s son, there are people who are capable of committing horrible acts of violence — even against innocent third parties — by convincing themselves that their actions are justified,” Everdell wrote in a motion to the court.