British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, Founder of the TerraMar Project, attending a press conference on the issue of oceans in the Sustainable Development Goals, at the UN headquarters in New York: (EPA – UN photo)
Former federal prosecutor Jaimie Nawaday has claimed that Ghislaine Maxwell could be granted bail because of an outbreak of Covid-19 in her New York prison.
Maxwell is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn facing charges of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse of minors.
She is due in court on Tuesday for her arraignment and has been accused of luring and grooming underage girls, so her former boyfriend and business associate, Jeffrey Epstein, could abuse them.
Last week, the British socialite’s lawyers requested bail, and argued that she would face a “significant risk” of catching Covid-19 if forced to remain in prison during the upcoming legal proceedings.
Ms Nawaday, who previously worked for the Southern District of New York (SNDY), the office that is prosecuting Maxwell, told the New York Post that the high number of coronavirus cases in US prisons might mean she is granted bail on Tuesday.
“I think this one is a close case. Epstein had no chance at all at bail. She’s in a very different position,” she said.
At least 55 inmates and staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at her facility since the start of the pandemic, and the former federal prosecutor thinks this might help Ms Maxwell.
“All bail arguments look a little bit different now given Covid-19. That’s definitely in her favour,” Ms Nawaday said.
At least 52,649 prisoners had tested positive for coronavirus in US prisons by the end of June and Ms Nawaday added that “more and more there is a push toward home confinement, especially holding people pre-trial, when you still have the presumption of innocence.”
In the bail request Maxwell’s lawyers proposed a bond of $5m (£4m) alongside home detention with electronic monitoring, and argued that she is not a flight risk, as she did not flee the country after Epstein was arrested.
She “did not flee, but rather left the public eye, for the entirely understandable purpose of protecting herself and those close to her from the crush of media and online attention and its very real harms”, her lawyers wrote.
Ms Nawaday believes this argument might also help her and added: “She obviously could have left the country, she didn’t. She was keeping a low profile here. I don’t think that shows a risk of flight.”
However, Jennifer Rodgers, who also used to work as a prosecutor for the SNDY, argued that Maxwell is a flight risk and told the Post that she does not believe that she fits into the category for those being granted bail due to Covid-19.
“Maxwell has wealth, multiple passports, strong connections outside of the US, and a strong incentive to flee given the serious penalties she faces. The argument that she is a flight risk is strong,” Ms Rodgers said.
“Unless there are underlying health issues that haven’t been reported, Maxwell is healthy and not old enough at 58 to fall in a high-risk group, so I don’t think the Covid crisis will work in her favour.”
According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 3.3 million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 135,205.
Ghislaine Maxwell requests bail due to ‘risk of coronavirus’