NEW YORK: Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty in a New York court on Tuesday (Jul 14) to sex trafficking minors for her former partner, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, as a judge denied her bail.
The 58-year-old denied six charges related to alleged crimes committed by Epstein, a well-connected sex offender who killed himself in prison while awaiting trial last summer.
"Not guilty, your honor," said Maxwell, who showed no emotion during the more than two-hour-long hearing in which one of her alleged victims called her a "sexual predator."
Maxwell appeared in a Manhattan federal court via video link from a small white room in Brooklyn's high-security Metropolitan Detention Center, where she is being held following her arrest earlier this month.
Prosecutors accuse Maxwell, daughter of the late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, of helping Epstein "recruit, groom and ultimately abuse" multiple underage girls.
The alleged crimes occurred between 1994 and 1997, and relate to three women - one of whom was just 14 when she was sexually abused, according to the indictment.
Maxwell allegedly befriended the girls with shopping and movie theatre outings, and later coaxed them into giving Epstein nude massages during which he would engage in sex acts.
Prosecutors say Maxwell sometimes participated in the alleged abuse, which occurred at her London home and at Epstein's properties in Manhattan, Palm Beach and New Mexico.
They allege she "persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced" minor victims to travel across US state lines and abroad for the purpose of the illegal sex acts.
Maxwell has been charged with four counts relating to the trafficking, including transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
She also faces two counts of perjury for allegedly lying about the claims during a 2016 civil lawsuit.
Maxwell could serve up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
'EGGED' EPSTEIN ON
Judge Alison Nathan set Jul 12, 2021 as the opening date of Maxwell's trial, ordering the former jet-setter remain detained without bail for the next year.
The decision came despite pleas from her defence team, which insisted she was not a flight risk and argued for home confinement in New York with GPS monitoring on bail of US$5 million.
They argued the coronavirus crisis would put her health at "serious risk" if she remained incarcerated.
But the judge agreed with prosecutors that Maxwell poses an "extreme" flight risk. She pointed out the socialite has passports from the United States, Britain and France as well as wealth and an international social circle.
Maxwell also is a citizen of France, the prosecution says, which does not extradite dual citizens.
Prosecutors claim to have identified 15 bank accounts associated with Maxwell recently, with their total balance at one point exceeding US$20 million.
They said it appears she is shielding assets and used an alias to buy the secluded New Hampshire luxury property where she was arrested on Jul 2.
They reiterated that agents had to breach the front door of that residence to detain her, also saying she used aluminium foil to wrap her phone in a bid to evade authorities.
Maxwell's "recent activity shows her extraordinary capacity to evade detection," Judge Nathan said.
Alleged victim Annie Farmer dubbed Maxwell a "sexual predator" in arguing against bail in a statement to the court, as another complainant said the defendant's "sole purpose is that of self-preservation."
"Jeffrey Epstein couldn't have done what he did without her. She egged him on and encouraged him," said the unnamed alleged victim.
SPOTLIGHT ON ANDREW
Epstein's accusers have for years alleged that Maxwell managed a network of women who recruited young girls into a trafficking scheme he ran. She has always denied this.
After Epstein hanged himself in a New York cell last August ahead of his trial on sex-trafficking charges, prosecutors vowed to pursue any possible co-conspirators.
Epstein, 66, was a multi-million-dollar hedge fund manager who befriended countless celebrities over the years, including former president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Maxwell's arrest has intensified the spotlight on Andrew, who vehemently denies claims he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured by Epstein.
Epstein was convicted in Florida in 2008 of paying young girls for massages, but served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal struck with the then-state prosecutor.
While his death was ruled a suicide, it has fueled conspiracy theories, most speculating he was murdered to stop him from revealing compromising information about wealthy acquaintances.