Ghislaine Maxwell, former confidante of child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein who is facing her own charges related to the abuse of minors, claims prison guards at the federal detention facility where she is being held have improperly taken and read her legal documents.
Ms Maxwell was arrested last year and faces six federal charges, including sex trafficking, enticement of minors and perjury.
Her lawyers claimed in a letter to federal judge Alison Nathan, who is overseeing her case, that she saw “three guards going through the [folder], reading papers and pages of the notebook, dividing papers into two stacks, and leaving the room with the papers.”
They also claimed that guards “intimidated Ms Maxwell” by standing “knee to knee” over her while she was using the bathroom.
The guards claimed she had violated the prison’s rules by receiving paperwork from her attorneys that was not in her hands when she entered the visiting area.
Bobbi C Sternheim, one of Ms Maxwell’s lawyers, said the claim was “inaccurate.” She pointed out that Ms Maxwell and her legal team were under constant surveillance by “four to five guards” as well as surveillance cameras in the facility.
“At no time did the guards, who were assiduously watching and filming the legal conference, bring any concern to my attention,” the lawyer wrote. “The conduct of which both Ms Maxwell and counsel have been accused did not happen; and the conduct on the part of the guards was reprehensible.”
Ms Maxwell’s legal team is threatening to sue over the incident.
The former socialite has reportedly been using socks as makeshift eye masks to block flashlight beams from corrections officers that wake her up every 15 minutes during the night.
Guards at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in New York have reportedly been checking on her every 15 minutes throughout the night by shining a flashlight into her cell, which wakes her up. The prison said it conducts the checks to ensure she is still alive.
Epstein reportedly committed suicide while awaiting trial, prompting widespread condemnation by both lawmakers and the public.
Ms Maxwell's lawyers have repeatedly tried to secure her release on bail, even offering a $28.5m bail so she could await the rest of her trial at her home.
The attempts have been denied due to Ms Maxwell - who has both British and French citizenship - being judged a flight risk. She has offered to renounce her UK and French citizenship to secure a release, but she has been denied.
Prosecutors claim that the 15-minute checks are routine and that Ms Maxwell has been given a sleep mask to allow her to sleep through the monitoring. However, her lawyers claim the checks are not routine, and that she has not been given any masks.
“The idea that she has an eye mask is wrong. She either uses a sock or a towel to block out the light on her own,” her lawyers said in a filing on Monday.
One of the judges on the three-member panel reviewing the appeal questioned the prosecution's claims.
“It’s routine to shine a light to the eyes of every prisoner? Are you really telling us that?” Judge Pierre Leval asked.
Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Her trial is set to begin on 12 July, but that date may change as her defence has requested more time to review new evidence added to the case in recent weeks.
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