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Disgraced socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has made an unusual request by asking for permission for three of her witnesses to testify anonymously.
During her sex trafficking trial so far, three witnesses that testified against her were able to do so under pseudonyms or by giving their first names only. Now, Maxwell’s defense wants to also be able to shield the identity of three witnesses that would testify on their client’s behalf, the New York Times reports.
Typically, victims of sex crimes can testify anonymously but a request for defense witnesses, who are not crime victims, is unusual.
However, Maxwell lawyer Bobbi C. Sternheim argued that the 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.
After the government rested its case on Friday, Maxwell attorney Christian Everdell argued that those who would testify on behalf of the socialite "might get a lot of unwanted attention," CNN reports.
“We are already getting what I think are valid requests that these witnesses testify anonymously or under some sort of protection, name protection,” he said, according to the New York Times.
Of the 35 people on the defense’s witness list, which they noted last week in court that they intend to cut down, it’s not clear why these particular three need protection.
Maxwell, 59, 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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