By Natalie Finn
Ghislaine Maxwell isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. That much is known.
The heiress and socialite who, a federal indictment alleges, herded girls as young as 14 into the clutches of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and conspired to abuse them, is in jail—and behind bars is where a judge is determined to have her remain while awaiting trial.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty on all charges: conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel and engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, all between 1994 and 1997; as well as two counts of perjury for allegedly lying in a 2016 deposition when she denied massaging girls and begged ignorance of Epstein’s pattern of behavior.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she’s quoted when asked if Epstein had a “scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages,” the unifying thread of the accusations against him.
She’s facing up to 35 years in prison.
Epstein, meanwhile, is dead, officials determining that he took his own life in his cell at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center last August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. His ignominious end was a deflating turn of events for his victims, many of whom spoke out in the recent Netflix series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, and the countless observers who felt his 13 months of privilege-laden jail time between 2008 and 2009 was a slap on the wrist for heinous crimes.
And needless to say, for those convinced that Epstein took a host of secrets with him to the grave, the idea that Maxwell could end up telling all has proved most tantalizing. So far, however, she has exercised her right to remain silent.
On July 14, Maxwell, who was born in England and holds U.K., French and U.S. passports, was denied bail, the judge deeming her a flight risk. France also has no extradition treaty with the United States. Moreover, prosecutors said that Maxwell had $4 million stashed in a Swiss bank account, plenty to live on if needed, and she had already attempted to evade capture when the FBI showed up to arrest her earlier this month.
“The agents saw the defendant ignore the direction to open the door and, instead, try to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her,” it was alleged in a filing opposing her request for bail. Moreover, the filing contended, she had a private security team that included former members of the British military run errands for her so that she wouldn’t need to leave the grounds for fear of being spotted; and she had in her possession a cell phone that was wrapped in tinfoil, a “seemingly misguided effort to evade detection, not by the press or public, which of course would have no ability to trace her phone or intercept her communications, but by law enforcement.”
She was residing in a sprawling home on 156 acres in rural Bradford, N.H., when she was taken into custody on July 2. Maxwell had quietly purchased the property for a little more than $1 million in cash last year.
“If you’re looking for a place to hide, boy, you can’t find a better one,” a source who was familiar with the details told NBC News. “It’s a lovely house on a lot of turf and it’s up a driveway that’s a little bit more than half a mile long. Nobody comes up there to bug you or poke or pry.”
And she wasn’t alone, according to prosecutors, who also said in court last week that Maxwell was now married but “declined” to share any specifics, including her husband’s identity, with the court—and in making “no mention whatsoever about the financial circumstances or assets of her spouse,” she further proved herself undeserving of release on bail.
In trying to negotiate a reported $5 million bail package, Maxwell’s attorneys stated in a court filing that their client had simply been trying to maintain a low profile since Epstein’s arrest and suicide to protect herself and her family from “unrelenting and intrusive media coverage.” They also argued that she was at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 behind bars, prisons and jails all over the country having become hot spots for the virus.
“Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” the lawyers stated. “She was not named in the government’s indictment of Epstein in 2019, despite the fact that the government has been investigating this case for years. Instead, the current indictment is based on allegations of conduct that allegedly occurred roughly twenty-five years ago. Ms. Maxwell vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.”
Annie Farmer, who has alleged that as a teenager she was assaulted by Epstein at his ranch in New Mexico after Maxwell encouraged her to give her host a massage, begged to differ.
Speaking via video conference at Maxwell’s bail hearing, Farmer said, “I met Ghislaine Maxwell when I was 16 years old. She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women. She has never shown any remorse for her heinous crimes or the devastating, lasting effects her actions caused.”
Bail was denied and U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan remanded Maxwell to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Her trial date was set for July 12, 2021.
“Knowing that she is incarcerated for the foreseeable future allows me, and my fellow survivors, to have faith that we are on the right path,” Jennifer Araoz, who previously accused Epstein of raping her when she was 15, said in a statement to NBC News after the hearing. “I would like to thank both the prosecutors and the judge for taking us one step closer to seeing that justice is served.”
A lot can happen in a year—as a lot can happen in just a few weeks, making it seem as if it’s been far longer since Maxwell was arrested.
She has stayed put, in solitary confinement and with paper bedding, but her story is a multi-tentacled creature that continues to reach far and wide—and, some hope, will eventually ensnare more people in its grasp.
Even Princess Beatrice‘s surprise wedding last week—happy news coming from Britain’s royal family—had a tinge of scandal about it. While her nuptials were first downsized and then postponed completely due to the pandemic, her father Prince Andrew‘s past friendship with Epstein, which re-reared its head last summer, had already affected the size and scope of her big day.
In a tone-deaf interview with BBC Newsnight in November, Andrew tried to explain away why he continued to socialize with Epstein after he had pleaded guilty to procuring a minor for prostitution, saying Epstein’s Manhattan mansion was a convenient place to stay in New York. “I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times,” Queen Elizabeth II‘s second-eldest son said. “At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable, but that’s just the way it is.”
Andrew also insisted he had no recollection of meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre—who has alleged in news interviews and in a 2009 civil lawsuit against Epstein (in which she was identified as Jane Doe 102) that she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York starting when she was 17—despite a widely circulated photograph of them taken together in 2001.
Giuffre has alleged that her first sexual encounter with Andrew took place at Maxwell’s home in London’s Belgravia neighborhood.
“I think it’s… from the investigations that we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph,” Andrew stammered. “So it’s very difficult to be able to prove it, but I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.”
Overall, he has denied engaging in any illegal sexual activity.
Days after the Newsnight interview aired, Andrew took the only honorable course left and stepped down from his duties as a senior royal, saying in a statement that he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
Since then, his appearances in public have largely been limited to glimpses of him accompanying the queen to church—and the FBI has said he’s been entirely uncooperative.
A former Epstein staffer also named Andrew in Filthy Rich as a member of the VIP crowd who partied on Epstein’s private enclave in the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas Island of Little Saint James—or “Orgy Island,” as it’s been so indelicately nicknamed—and Giuffre recounted her allegations against him in the series. In June, the U.S. Department of Justice stated publicly that the royal had remained unhelpful, but Andrew’s legal team maintained he had “on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ” and been rebuffed.
“In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered,” the lawyers stated.
Meanwhile, Giuffre says she first met Maxwell when she was working as a locker room attendant at the spa at the Mar-a-Lago Club, President Donald Trump‘s resort and longtime home in Palm Beach, where Epstein and Maxwell (who at one point were a romantic couple but eventually segued into so-called confidantes) were regulars back in the 1990s.
Trump, who has been photographed socializing with Epstein and Maxwell, by all accounts cut ties with them years ago, before Epstein’s arrest in Florida in 2006 for sexually abusing minors. But, in another headline-grabbing off-the-cuff remark, when asked Tuesday during a press conference for his thoughts on whether Maxwell might name some powerful names as the investigation continues, the president replied, “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.”
He continued, “I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.”
Cue those who thought the sentiment rather inappropriate considering the charges against her. When pressed further to explain what Trump meant, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox and Friends Friday, “Well, what the president was noting is that the last person who was charged in this case ended up dead in a jail cell, and the president wants justice to be served for the victims in this case. And he prefers this to play out in a courtroom.”
There is heightened scrutiny on Maxwell’s well-being behind bars in light of what happened to Epstein, who had previously been on suicide watch but wasn’t when he died. Multiple investigations into the circumstances that allowed him the opportunity to hang himself in his jail cell found that two guards assigned to Epstein’s unit were dozing off when they should have been conducting checks on the inmates and then falsified the times in their duty log. They were supposed to check the cells every 30 minutes, but apparently three hours went by before they checked on Epstein again.
And then there was the theory—and a not particularly fringe theory—that Epstein was killed to prevent him from potentially spilling dirty secrets about his rich and powerful friends.
“I can understand people who immediately—whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario, because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press in November after Justice Department and FBI investigations concluded Epstein’s death was a suicide.
Which hasn’t changed the concern that Maxwell may not live to tell her story, should she want to talk—though so far there’s no indication that she does.
On Thursday, Judge Nathan denied a request from the defendant’s attorney for a gag order to prevent prosecutors, law enforcement, and lawyers of the alleged victims from speaking publicly about the case. Nathan wrote that she expected all parties to conduct themselves appropriately to not endanger Maxwell’s chance for a fair trial, and she would reassess if need be.
Perhaps more consequential was the decision made by another federal judge on Thursday to allow 80 documents pertaining to a 2015 civil defamation lawsuit that Virginia Giuffre filed against Maxwell to be unsealed. Her lawyers have a week to appeal before the decision goes into affect—and they did vow to appeal.
In their initial motion to ensure that the documents, including the majority of a 418-page deposition, remained sealed, Maxwell attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca wrote, “This series of pleadings concerns [Giuffre’s] attempt to compel Ms. Maxwell to answer intrusive questions about her sex life. The subject matter of these [documents] is extremely personal, confidential, and subject to considerable abuse by the media.”
In her ruling, however, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska said, “In the context of this case, especially its allegations of sex trafficking of young girls, the Court finds that any minor embarrassment or annoyance resulting from disclosure of Ms. Maxwell’s mostly non-testimony about behavior that has been widely reported in the press is far outweighed by the presumption of public access.”
But while the documents are said to be littered with names and some people are indeed rubbing their hands in anticipation, third-party names will still remain redacted for now, per Preska’s order, along with personally identifiable information and medical records.
Giuffre—whom Maxwell called an “absolute liar” in a previously unsealed excerpt of her deposition—reached a confidential settlement with Maxwell in 2017, and Thursday’s decision pertains to a lawsuit filed by the Miami Herald to make the papers public. The Herald‘s 2018 investigation into how Epstein ended up with a seemingly very lenient deal back in 2008, when local authorities said they had plenty of evidence to go after him for more, played a major role in events leading up to his arrest on sex-trafficking charges in July 2019. He killed himself barely a month later.
As seen in Filthy Rich, Epstein continues to haunt the survivors of his actions, now roughly three dozen women who have said they were raped or otherwise preyed on by the billionaire investment manager.
Also on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Epstein’s mansions in Palm Beach and Manhattan’s Upper East Side—both homes where he allegedly abused girls and pimped them out to his fancy friends—are on the market for $22 million and $88 million, respectively.
His estate, currently still valued at around $636 million, has set up a compensation fund to handle ongoing litigation settlements.
“This Mansion presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to own the largest single-family home in New York City,” reads the listing for the Manhattan townhouse in Lenox Hill. “This historic landmark could easily present itself as a palatial consulate, embassy, foundation, or a museum to once again house some of the world’s greatest works of art.”
There is no mention of its late owner in either listing.
“I believe the past ownership of the property will bear no relationship to its future,” Kelly Warwick of the Corcoran Group, the listing agency for the Palm Beach property, told the WSJ. “The location and what can be done with it is really what matters.”