Ghislaine Maxwell has four potential grounds for appeal – including the judge’s decision to force the jury to work through New Year’s Eve holiday due to the coronavirus, a legal analysis by DailyMail.com reveals.
Lawyers for the former socialite, who is facing 65 years in jail for recruiting and trafficking underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, could zero in on how Judge Alison Nathan handled the case as they seek to overturn the conviction.
Their primary argument will likely be how Judge Nathan ordered the jury to sit every single day of the final week until they reached a verdict.
That included New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, even though it falls on a Saturday and is a public holiday, and Sunday as well.
Maxwell’s lawyers complained that such instructions were essentially telling the jury they needed to ‘hurry up’.
Judge Nathan said that the move was necessary because the ‘astronomical’ numbers of Covid-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant meant there was a real risk of a ‘mistrial’.
But at the end of that very day the jury came back with their verdict.
Ghislaine Maxwell is facing 65 years in jail for recruiting and trafficking underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein after a jury found her guilty on five of six counts. A courtroom sketch shows Maxwell sitting as the guilty verdict in her sex abuse trial is read in New York
A legal analysis by DailyMail.com reveals Ghislaine Maxwell has four potential grounds for appeal. Lawyers for Maxwell could zero in on how Judge Alison Nathan handled the case as they seek to overturn the conviction
Other issues which could be raised on appeal include how Judge Nathan handled a question from the panel about count four – transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity – on which Maxwell was convicted.
Other high profile sex crimes cases give Maxwell, 60, some hope
Maxwell’s lawyers are likely to raise concerns about a jury note related to the accuser Annie Farmer and counts one and three, on which they also found Maxwell guilty.
Fourthly, Maxwell’s lawyers could object to how Judge Nathan brusquely handled their request for the US Marshals to force one witness to attend court, a request they ultimately dropped.
Maxwell has yet to formally file her appeal but outside the federal court in New Year after the verdict, her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said they would be doing so.
In a statement, Maxwell’s family said she would be ‘ultimately vindicated’ despite the jury convicting her of five of the six charges.
Other high profile sex crimes cases do give Maxwell, 60, some hope, most notably that of Bill Cosby.
In 2018 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years earlier.
Cosby’s conviction was overturned on appeal in June after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled that his due process rights had been violated because a previous prosecutor agreed not to charge him.
Harvey Weinstein is currently appealing his 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault that was handed down in March last year.
During an appeal court hearing in New York earlier this month, judges asked whether lining up three Weinstein accusers as bad character witnesses was ‘overkill’ – a decision is due in Spring 2022.
Maxwell has yet to formally file her appeal but outside the federal court in New Year after the verdict, her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said they would be doing so
Maxwell’s defense team Jeffery Pagliuca and Laura Menninger are seen leaving court in New York after yesterday’s verdicts
Maxwell suffered a setback Tuesday after Judge Nathan rejected her defense team’s request to give the jury additional instructions on one of the counts related to transporting accuser ‘Jane’. They will likely use this as grounds for appeal
Harvey Weinstein is currently appealing his 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault that was handed down in March last year. Bill Cosby’s conviction was overturned on appeal in June after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled that his due process rights had been violated because a previous prosecutor agreed not to charge him
Judge Nathan’s handling of the jury instructions about the coronavirus will undoubtedly feature highly in Maxwell’s appeal.
On day 16 Judge Nathan discussed instructing the jury to sit until 6pm instead of 5pm because of the risk one of them may become infected.
Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger strongly objected.
She told the court: ‘Because it has only been three days, we believe that any suggestion that they should stay later is beginning to sound like urging them to hurry up, when clearly they know that they can deliberate as long as they want and they should be able to deliberate as long as they want’.
Menninger noted that the previous week Judge Nathan had offered the jury an extra day to deliberate but they declined it, stating in a note they had ‘made plans’ for the Christmas break.
Judge Nathan did instruct the jury they could stay until 6pm or longer but added that there was no ‘pressure’ and they should take as long as they wanted.
The next day Judge Nathan’s mood darkened and she said that the longer hours were necessary because ‘we are seeing an astronomical spike in the number of Covid positive cases in New York’.
Judge Nathan added that ‘we are facing a high and escalating risk that the jurors or participants (such as Maxwell) may need to quarantine, putting at risk our ability to complete this trial’.
At the end of the day the jury sent a note saying they were ‘making progress’.
On Wednesday, the morning of what turned out to be the final day of deliberations, the jury asked for clarification of their schedule for the week.
Judge Nathan told them that she would compel them to sit every day that week until they reached a verdict: previously they were told they would sit only Monday to Wednesday.
That would include New Year’s Eve on the Friday and New Year’s Day on the Saturday, as well as Sunday if necessary.
After appeals from Maxwell’s lawyers, the judge added the same qualifier as before: ‘Of course, by this I don’t mean to pressure you in any way. You should take all the time that you need’.
At the end of that very day, the jury came back with their verdict.
Another source of contention which could feature in the appeal was when Maxwell’s lawyers repeatedly argued with Judge Nathan on day 16 of the trial over a note from the jury about count four, which related to the accuser Jane.
The count was transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity.
Maxwell was found guilty and faces up to 10 years in jail for this count.
Maxwell’s siblings Kevin, Christine and Isabel walked out of court in New York yesterday and declined to speak to reporters. In a statement, Maxwell’s family said she would be ‘ultimately vindicated’ despite the jury convicting her of five of the six charges
The prosecution brought in pictures found in Epstein’s mansion in a bid to show that Maxwell and Epstein had been in a relationship
The note read: ‘If the defendant aided in the transportation of Jane’s return flight, but not the flight to New Mexico, where/if the intent was for Jane to engage in sexual activity, can she be found guilty under the second element?’
Prosecutor Alison Moe said they were ‘not able to parse the question because we find it confusing’ so the ‘safest course’ was to refer the jury to the instructions.
Maxwell’s lawyer Christian Everdell said that the ‘significant purpose’ of the trip was not that ‘Jane engaged in illicit sexual activity’ as required by the law.
In this case she was ‘just presumably going home, but is not for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual activity’, Everdell said.
Judge Nathan said that the note was ‘ambiguous’ and told the court: ‘I don’t know what the question means, it’s too difficult to parse factually and legally’.
As a result she referred the jury to her instructions without further comment.
The following day Maxwell’s lawyers tried again to change the judge’s mind with a seven page letter filed to the court which said her decision was ‘incorrect and prejudicial to Ms. Maxwell’
They said that the jury were ‘confused’ about not just count four but count two as well and requested an additional, three paragraph instruction to clarify.
Judge Nathan rejected the request to address count two as the jury didn’t ask about it.
She told Everdell that he was seeking a ‘third bite of the apple’ and dismissed his letter as ‘just wrong’ as she stood by her original decision.
Another note on day 14 of the trial sparked intense argument from Maxwell’s lawyers and could form the basis of an appeal.
The jury asked if they could consider the accuser Annie Farmer’s testimony for the counts of conspiracy to entice and transport a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
Maxwell is facing five years on jail on each count.
Judge Nathan said she would tell the jury: ‘The answer is yes, you may consider it’.
Everdell said he was worried that the jury might use Farmer’s testimony ‘more broadly’ than they should.
He wanted to remind the jury that Farmer’s allegations were not ‘illegal sexual conduct’ as charged in the indictment.
Pictured: The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) where Ghislaine Maxwell is being held and has been since her arrest in July 2020
Judge Nathan rejected the argument and said it would be ‘nonresponsive to their question’.
In their appeal Maxwell’s lawyers may well raise Judge Nathan’s handling of their problems calling defense witnesses.
Judge Nathan was blunt with Maxwell’s attorneys when they asked for help from the US Marshals to compel one female witness, Kelly Bovino, to come to court.
The judge sounded exasperated at the prospect of a delay in the trial especially as the defense knew two weeks ago that Bovino was not replying to their subpoena.
She said: ‘We’re not delaying trial, so this all needs to happen yesterday’.
During a testy exchange with Menninger Judge Nathan said that a ‘nonresponsive witness is not a little thing’.
A desperate-sounding Menninger replied: ‘We’ve been flying people across the country, across the pond.
‘Our client’s life is on the line and we’re being given one day to put on a defense, one and a half days, and there is one witness that we’re having problems with. We’re not asking for some weeks’ long delay’.
In the end Maxwell’s lawyer withdrew their request to engage the US Marshals, but on appeal this may well be raised to try and overturn the conviction.