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Maxwell’s defense attorneys put forth the idea to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan last week, asking for three of Maxwell’s witnesses to be able to testify using pseudonyms or under some other form of anonymity — protections similar to those granted to sexual abuse accusers, three of whom testified for the prosecution against Maxwell, but Nathan denied the motion.
“The Defense’s primary contention is that some form of anonymity for its witnesses is justified by the same reasons that the Court permitted three alleged victims and two related government witnesses to testify under pseudonyms,” Nathan wrote in a Thursday ruling, obtained by Law & Crime. “The Court disagrees with this basic premise and denies the Defense’s motion.”
Nathan described the request as “unprecedented” and stated that “there is no similar concern, as there are for alleged victims of sexual abuse, that denying the use of pseudonyms will deter reports of misconduct.”
Maxwell lawyer Bobbi C. Sternheim had argued that their witnesses may not testify if not shielded in such a manner.
“The court’s ruling on this issue may impact the willingness of these witnesses to testify, thereby compromising Ms. Maxwell’s right to present her defense,” Sternheim wrote in a letter to the judge on Sunday, according to the New York Times.
Of the 35 people on the defense’s witness list, which Maxwell’s defense noted last week in court that they intend to cut down, it’s not clear why these particular three need protection.
The defense began their case on Thursday morning in a New York federal courtroom, beginning with Maxwell’s former employee Cimberly Espinosa as the first witness, the New York Times reports.
“I highly respected Ghislaine,” Espinosa, who worked as Maxwell’s executive assistant from 1996 to 2002 testified Thursday, according to the New York Post. “I looked up to her very much.”
These years fit within the timeline of some of the worst allegations against Maxwell, 59, who is accused of recruiting and grooming teen girls as part of Jeffrey Epstein’s pyramid of sexual abuse. She faces six federal counts, including transporting minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion. Epstein, who was found hanged in his jail cell in August 2019 at age 66, just one month after he was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges, referred to Maxwell as his "best friend" in a 2003 Vanity Fair profile.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
For more on the case, watch Peacock’s “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell.”
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