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Ghislaine Maxwell's Attorney Compares Her Jail Conditions To Hannibal Lecter In 'Silence Of The Lambs' In New Bid To Get Bail

Ghislaine Maxwell's attorney has appealed federal judge Alison Nathan for her client's release as her federal sex trafficking trial looms. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Ghislaine Maxwell Lodges Complaint About Vermin Droppings

Ghislaine Maxwell’s attorney has compared her treatment in jail to that of Hannibal Lecter in the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” in the latest attempt to get the 59-year-old released on bond before her approaching trial.

“My weekly in-person legal visits with Ms. Maxwell are conducted under the most humiliating circumstances that I have ever experienced in many decades of federal criminal practice,” attorney Bobbi Sternheim wrote in a letter to federal judge Alison Nathan dated Wednesday and obtained by Oxygen.com. “As disturbing and invasive as they are for no justifiable reason, I get to leave; Ms. Maxwell does not. The surveillance rivals scenes of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s incarceration as portrayed in the movie, 'Silence of the Lambs,' despite the absence of the cage and plastic face guard.”

Sternheim described the conditions Maxwell, who is facing sex trafficking allegations, has endured while in custody at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center as part of a new bid to get Nathan to release Maxwell on bail.

“Ms. Maxwell’s conditions of detention for the past 16 months continue to be reprehensible and utterly inappropriate for a woman on the cusp of turning 60 with no criminal record or history of violence,” she wrote. “It is unwarranted, unrelenting and utterly inappropriate.”

According to Sternheim, Maxwell has been the “victim of physical and emotional abuse” by corrections officers, has been forced to live in “poor and unsanitary” conditions and has received “insufficient nutrition” by corrections officers who she said often give her portions that are too small or rotten.

“Many of the officers are openly hostile toward her and have mentioned having read the press and seen various television shows which amplify their hostility,” Sternheim wrote. “There are cameras on her constantly, most are stationary, but one camera follows her as she moves throughout the facility, and is constantly surveilling her, even during confidential attorney-client conferences.”

Sternheim also alleged that Maxwell is subject to “numerous pat searches” daily and has “been touched in a sexually inappropriate manner by corrections officers on multiple occasions,” which has negatively impacted her health.

She also complained about frequent checks on her client during the night, impairing Maxwell’s ability to get adequate sleep.

“Ms. Maxwell’s guards shine flashlights on the ceiling of her cell in 15-minute intervals and have done so every night since she was incarcerated,” Sternheim said.

As a result, she said her client has lost 15 pounds, had hair loss, and suffers from headaches, backaches and “general physical weakness.”

Sternheim believes her client was subjected to the restrictive conditions after Jeffrey Epstein took his own life while in federal custody at a Manhattan jail in 2019 as he awaited trial on federal sex trafficking charges against him. Maxwell’s charges are directly tied to Epstein’s case and prosecutors have said she recruited and groomed underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse. She's pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. 

“This response provides further that Ms. Maxwell is overmanaged because of the intense criticism sustained by the Department of Justice over the Bureau of Prisons’ blunder’s that resulted in the death of Jeffrey Epstein, an event that preceded the arrest and prosecution of Ms. Maxwell,” she wrote.

To support her position, Sternheim referenced comments that former Attorney General William Barr made to ABC News saying he was “livid” about Epstein’s death and that he was “happy that they had gotten Ms. Maxwell.”

When asked whether the Department of Justice had “locked in” procedures to ensure Maxwell wouldn’t kill or harm herself before trial, Barr said they had.

“We have asked them to tell us specifically the protocols they’re following, and we have a number of redundant systems to monitor the situation,” the brief quotes him as saying at the time.

Sternheim also argued that the conditions and Maxwell’s declining health have weakened her ability to assist in her own defense.

“The conditions of her confinement are seriously impacting her overall mental and physical health which will continue to worsen over time if she remains incarcerated under the current conditions and subject to the regiment at trial—sleep deprivation, inadequate nutrition, exposure to cold temperature, daily humiliation,” the letter states. “If she were released, her ongoing symptoms which will be exacerbated during trial would likely resolve completely, and she would be afforded the opportunity to properly prepare her defense for trial and endure the rigor of each trial day.”

It's not the first time Maxwell’s attorneys have argued for her release, but the repeated motions have always been denied.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the Southern District of New York's U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on Sternheim's allegations.

Jury selection is slated to begin Thursday morning in Maxwell’s approaching trial, with potentials jurors filling out questionnaires that will later used to determine who will be selected for the jury, according to The New York Post.

Potential jurors are expected to be asked questions about whether they are able to participate in the trial logistically but also whether they could remain impartial about someone who has been accused of sexual abuse.

The trial is slated to begin Nov. 29.

For more on her case, you can watch Epstein's Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell on Peacock.