NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for a British socialite are trying to put conspiracy theories and other topics “a galaxy away” in front of a jury that will decide if she helped Jeffrey Epstein abuse teenage girls, prosecutors told a judge Friday.
The government and defense lawyers submitted arguments to the judge who will preside over the November trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, who has been incarcerated since her July 2020 arrest on charges that she recruited teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse and sometimes joined in the abuse.
She has pleaded not guilty. Epstein died at a Manhattan lockup in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The death was ruled a suicide.
The final pretrial hearing is Monday. Prospective jurors will fill out questionnaires later in the week and oral questioning of them will begin in mid-November. Opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 29.
In Friday’s submission, prosecutors claimed the defense planned to create a “side show” with extraneous subjects.
They said conspiracy theories the defense wants to introduce at trial include claims about the government’s motives for charging Maxwell, “supposed evidence relating to the Minor Victims’ consent,” statements Maxwell has made, evidence of other abuse not involving Maxwell and proof that Maxwell prevailed in civil litigation.
“These topics are far afield — a galaxy away — from the questions of fact to be resolved by the jury. The Government is concerned that the defense plans to exceed its limits and, therefore, has moved to preclude the defense from arguing them or offering evidence of them,” prosecutors wrote.
Defense lawyers countered that prosecutors were trying to “improperly obtain advisory rulings” from the judge and were trying to “prematurely, and unconstitutionally, force Ms. Maxwell to reveal defense theories, strategies, and cross-examination.”
They said it was too soon to limit evidence because the judge “lacks the necessary facts to make intelligent rulings.”
The lawyers wrote that prosecutors were seeking to preclude evidence or arguments that the accusers consented to sexual contact. They argue that certain evidence from accusers who were underage at the time of the alleged sexual abuse may be admissible.
They said the age of consent for sexual contact purposes varies depending on the state and nation.
New York defines a minor as a person under the age of 17; Florida considers it under the age of 18; the United Kingdom under the age of 16; France under the age of 15; and New Mexico does not have a specific age of consent statute but criminalizes all sexual contact of a minor under the age of 13 when coercion or force is involved, the lawyers said.