Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty to charges that she helped her longtime friend, financier Jeffrey Epstein, run a sex-trafficking scheme targeting girls as young as 14.The British socialite entered her plea Tuesday in her first hearing before a federal judge in Manhattan, where she will also be arguing to be released from custody on $5 million bail ahead of trial. Prosecutors are opposing bail, claiming Maxwell may flee.
FBI agents arrested Maxwell on July 2 at a secluded estate in New Hampshire. Federal prosecutors say she lured underage girls and groomed them for sexual encounters with Epstein in his mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, his Palm Beach estate, New Mexico ranch and other locations.
Maxwell’s lawyers have said they plan to mount “significant challenges” to the government’s case. They say it’s barred by Epstein’s 2007 non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, which covers “any potential co-conspirators.”
According to the indictment, Maxwell built a rapport with Epstein’s victims and proceeded to “normalize sexual abuse” for them by discussing sexual topics with them, undressing in front of them, encouraging them to give Epstein massages and being present during sex acts.
Prosecutors have also charged Maxwell with two counts of perjury over her testimony in previous lawsuits that she wasn’t aware of interacting with minors at Epstein’s properties and that she didn’t know he had sex with anyone besides herself.
Epstein was arrested last July on federal sex-trafficking charges but died of apparent suicide in his Manhattan jail cell while he was awaiting trial.