Ghislaine Maxwell’s Lawyer Says She Was Abused in Jail

“Her restrictive conditions, searches, and constant surveillance correlate directly to BOP negligence resulting in the death of Jeffrey Epstein,” said
February 17, 2021, 7:06pm
Ghislaine Maxwell, who is facing a trial after being accused of facilitating Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of underage girls.
File photo dated 02/09/00 Ghislaine Maxwell, who is facing a trial after being accused of facilitating Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of underage girls. Photo credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire URN:56705279 (Press Association via AP Images)

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam, is “withering” away in jail, where she’s been subjected to more than a thousand physical searches—including one where she was physically abused, according to her legal team.

“She is withering to a shell of her former self—losing weight, losing hair, and losing her ability to concentrate,” Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, wrote in a letter to U.S. district court Judge Alison Nathan on Tuesday. “It is impossible to overstate the deleterious effect of the conditions under which Ms. Maxwell is detained.”

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The 59-year-old British former socialite, who was arrested last summer after spending months in hiding, is currently awaiting trial for multiple sex trafficking and perjury charges. She stands accused of helping Epstein, who died by hanging in jail in 2019 ahead of his own sex trafficking case, groom and abuse victims as young as 14 between 1994 and 1997, according to an indictment filed by prosecutors.

Nathan has denied Maxwell bail twice, after deeming her a flight risk. Tuesday’s letter is the latest in a series of missives claiming that Maxwell is being mistreated in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn—an allegation prosecutors have pushed back against in their own letters to Nathan.

In addition to enduring about 1,400 physical searches since her arrest last July, Sternheim said Tuesday that Maxwell’s isolation cell, locker, papers, and personal effects have been searched hundreds of times. Maxwell is also guarded 24 hours a day by two to six people and watched by about 18 cameras. 

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During one recent pat-down search, Sternheim says that Maxwell was placed out of view of the cameras and “physically abused.” When Maxwell said she’d reported the abuse, she was allegedly retaliated against by being forced to clean a shower with a broom.

“Ms. Maxwell continues to be at the mercy of a revolving group of security officers who are used to guarding hundreds of inmates but now focus their undivided attention exclusively on one respectful, middle-aged female pretrial detainee,” Sternheim wrote in her letter, adding, “Her restrictive conditions, searches, and constant surveillance correlate directly to BOP negligence resulting in the death of Jeffrey Epstein.”

Officials ruled that Epstein’s death was a suicide. Two guards have since been charged as part of the investigation into his demise; on the night Epstein died, they allegedly falsely claimed to have checked on inmates but instead just napped and shopped online. (The guards have pleaded not guilty and are still awaiting trial.) 

At night, jail guards flash a bright light into Maxwell’s cell every 15 minutes—a practice that Sternheim has highlighted in past letters to Nathan. 

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“It is hard to verbally convey the power of a light that bounces off a concrete ceiling in a six-by-nine-foot concrete box into Ms. Maxwell’s eyes, disrupting her sleep and ability to have any restful night,” Sternheim wrote. “The attenuating effects of sleep deprivation are well documented.”

In their own letter to Nathan earlier this month, prosecutors acknowledged that guards check on Maxwell every 15 minutes in order to see if she is “in distress.” They also said that guards’ daily searches of Maxwell are consistent with the jail’s “policy that all inmates be searched whenever they move to a different location within the jail facility.” 

Maxwell also has problems with her food: Beyond not being provided with a complete meal, her food is often frozen or microwaved beyond recognition, Sternheim says. “For the duration of her detention, she has never received a properly heated meal.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Detention Center said that, as a policy, the jail doesn’t comment on specific inmates’ “conditions of confinement.”

“However, we can share that allegations of misconduct are thoroughly reviewed and appropriate action is taken if such allegations are proven true, including the possibility of referral for criminal prosecution when appropriate,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Maxwell’s trial is expected to start this summer.