Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyer tell appeals judges that Jeffrey Epstein's Florida plea deal protects her

Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyer has asked a federal appeals court to toss out her sex trafficking conviction and 20-year prison sentence, saying Jeffrey Epstein's 2007 non-prosecution deal with a U.S. attorney in Florida should have prevented her prosecution

Larry Neumeister
Tuesday 12 March 2024 21:34 GMT

Imprisoned British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to toss out her sex trafficking conviction and 20-year prison sentence, saying Jeffrey Epstein’s 2007 non-prosecution deal with a U.S. attorney in Florida should have prevented her prosecution.

Attorney Diana Fabi Samson's argument was repeatedly challenged by one judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before the three-judge panel reserved decision.

Lawyers for Maxwell are challenging her December 2021 conviction on multiple grounds, but the only topic at oral arguments was whether the deal Epstein struck in Florida to prevent a federal case against him there also protected Maxwell in New York. Samson said it did. A prosecutor said it didn’t.

Maxwell, 62, is serving her sentence at a low-security federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida, where yoga, Pilates and movies are available.

Epstein's lawyers made a similar argument about the force of his non-prosecution deal in Florida after his July, 2019, sex trafficking arrest in Manhattan. But the legal question became moot in his case after he took his own life a month later in a federal lockup as he awaited trial.

Maxwell was arrested a year later and convicted at trial after several women who were sexually abused by Epstein testified that she played a crucial role from 1994 to 2004 by recruiting and grooming teenage girls for her former boyfriend to abuse.

Maxwell once had a romantic relationship with Epstein, but she later became his employee at his five residences, including a Manhattan mansion, the Virgin Islands and a large estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Samson insisted that a provision of Epstein's non-prosecution agreement that protected potential coconspirators should have prevented prosecutors from charging her 13 years later.

Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier repeatedly seemed to poke holes in her argument that “all U.S. attorneys have absolute authority bind other districts” when they make deals with defendants. He noted that the Florida agreement identified several individuals besides Epstein who should have protected under the deal, but Maxwell was not among them.

He said he reviewed the Department of Justice manual about non-prosecution agreements and “it suggests the opposite of what you just said.” Lohier said that each U.S. attorney's office's decisions could not require other offices to conform.

Samson countered that the manual was only advisory and “not a shield to allow the government to get out of its agreements made with defendants.”

She added: “Denying the viability of this agreement strikes a dagger in the heart of the trust between the government and its citizens regarding plea agreements.”

Arguing for the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Rohrbach responded to a question from Lohier by saying that he didn't know of any deal made by one federal prosecutor's office that required every other U.S. attorney to agree to abide by.

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