How Omicron might affect Ghislaine Maxwell hearing — Analysis

Ghislaine Maxwell is a former associate of Jeffrey Epstein. She was a judge over her trial.

The prosecution, supported by the testimonies of more than 20 witnesses, alleges Maxwell lured underage girls into Epstein’s web of sexual abuse. Although jurors began to deliberate on December 20th, the proceeding was canceled due to public holidays. Because of the Omicron variant, which is highly contagious, she has asked that jurors sit in unassisted until reaching a verdict.

  1. What are the judge’s concerns?
    Speaking to the US media on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan warned that New York City was now “We are now in a completely different position regarding the pandemic that we were a week ago.” and facing what she described as an “An astronomical spike” in infection numbers. Judge Nathan expressed concern that proceedings might end in a mistrial if significant numbers of jurors and other participants become ill from the coronavirus. A jury consisting of twelve people is required. However, Nathan permitted a member to be present via FaceTime in one case that was early in the pandemic.
  2. Does she expect the jury to reach a faster conclusion?
    Judge Nathan sought to allay jurors’ concerns by telling them, “Of course, by this, I don’t mean to pressure you in any way. It is important to take as much time and effort as possible.” They will not be expected to sit at weekends nor, now, to stay for an extra hour each weekday evening, which had been her initial requirement. Nathan has put in place a variety of safety precautions. Unlike federal judges, Nathan doesn’t require jurors be immunized. However, they do have to wear a certain type of mask and must sit at a table where they can remain apart at least six feet.
  3. Maxwell would be acquitted if the mistrial was over.
    Ghislaine Maxwell wouldn’t be convicted if the case was ruled a mistrial. However, it wouldn’t automatically mean she was acquitted, either. Although the prosecutor will likely request that the case is retried with another jury, the judge has the ultimate say. 
  4. Are other trials affected by Covid-19?
    On Monday, Maryland’s judiciary declared that any jury trial scheduled for between December 29th to February 8th would be suspended because of the increasing number of Covid-related infections. A similar decision was made by almost two dozen US districts courts to postpone jury trials. This happened in November 2020.
  5. What charges is Maxwell facing?
    Maxwell was charged with transporting minors with intent to engage criminal sexual activities; inducing minors to travel; conspiring to sex-traffick minors; and conspiracy. She also faces perjury charges, which will not be considered during her current trial.
  6. What was her relationship to Epstein like?
    She was Epstein’s girlfriend in the early 1990s and, after they split up, remained a close friend and ended up essentially working for him. The prosecution alleges that her primary role was finding underage girls and luring them into Epstein’s net.
  7. What is Maxwell’s own stance on these accusations?
    She pleaded not guilty to the original six counts, with her lawyers cited by the media as having said that she “The defendant vigorously rejects all charges and plans to fight them. Therefore, the accused is entitled the the presumption to innocence.
  8. How is she kept inside while in prison?
    She has been denied bail on multiple occasions because the judge is concerned she might abscond, and has been held in de facto solitary confinement in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center since July 2020. Maxwell has expressed frustration that Maxwell does not have the opportunity to communicate properly with her lawyers, and her legal correspondence gets delayed. Reports claim that Maxwell has described conditions inside jail as dangerous, unsafe, and insanitary.

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