#minorsextrafficking | Will Ghislaine Maxwell get a new trial? Lawyers seek sentencing delay in bid to quash trafficking conviction

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking underage girls for paedophile Jeffrey Epstein at the end of December, but her sentencing is now in doubt after two jurors revealed they had been sexually abused.

After spending her 60th birthday on Christmas Day in a cell in New York City, Maxwell, who was described in court as Epstein’s “partner in crime”, was found guilty of grooming children for the disgraced billionaire financier to prey on in the 90s and early 2000s.

But since her conviction on 29 December, two members of the jury have said they had shared their experiences of being abused with the rest of the deliberating jury – and her lawyers are calling for a new trial.

What happened in Maxwell’s trial?

During Maxwell’s month-long high-profile trial in a packed Manhattan federal court, a jury heard the testimony of four women who said they were sexually abused as teenagers at Epstein’s homes in Florida, New York and Mexico.

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Maxwell was found guilty of five of the six counts she had been charged with, including transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors. She was found not guilty of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

The socialite, who was Epstein’s former girlfriend, faces up to 65 years in prison and had been expected to appeal her conviction. The US government, which prosecuted the case, has said that a sentence date should be set for three to four months’ time.

What have the jurors revealed since?

Two jurors have spoken out in the past few weeks about how they shared their own experience of being sexually abused during deliberations.

The first one, who asked to be identified only by his first and middle names, Scotty David, told reporters he shared his experience with other jurors when they were uncertain about the accuracy of two of the accusers’ testimonies they had heard.

He said that he remembered the most important elements of what happened to him, but not every single detail. That swayed some jurors, he said. Scotty has since hired lawyer Todd Spodek to represent him.

A second juror, who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity, emerged soon after to say she too had shared her experience of abuse as jurors deliberated on whether to convict Maxwell or not.

What do Maxwell’s lawyers say?

After Scotty David revealed he was a victim of sexual abuse, Maxwell’s lawyers called for a new trial, with Christian Everdell writing to Judge Alison Nathan, who oversaw the case, to say there were “incontrovertible grounds” for the conviction to be overturned and for his client to be granted the chance of a retrial.

He called the matter “an issue of pressing importance,” saying disclosures by the juror “influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms Maxwell.” Mr Everdell filed the letter shortly after asking Judge Nathan to open an inquiry into the juror’s statements.

The judge’s decision on whether a new trial is warranted could hinge on how the juror responded to questions during jury selection about his experiences with sexual abuse, which legal experts said was a key question that defence lawyers were looking at to weed out potentially biased jurors.

Scotty David told Reuters on Tuesday he “flew through” the form and did not remember a question asking him if he was a victim of sexual abuse.

Will she get a new trial?

The prosecution said it would be willing to drop Maxwell’s outstanding charges of perjury if her conviction for sex trafficking were upheld.

The perjury charges concern allegations that the convicted sex trafficker lied about her knowledge of Epstein’s behaviour during depositions taken in 2016 for a separate civil case brought against her by the Duke of York’s accuser, Virginia Giuffre. Each charge carries a maximum five-year prison term.

In the Monday night letter to US District Judge Alison Judge Nathan, prosecutors said dismissing the two perjury counts would reflect the victims’ “significant interests in bringing closure to this matter and avoiding the trauma of testifying again.”

Lawyers for Maxwell said in the joint letter that they oppose setting any timetable for sentencing, claiming that the post-trial revelations are a “compelling basis” to overturn their client’s conviction and grant a new trial.

Judge Nathan gave Maxwell’s lawyers until 19 January to formally explain why the conviction should be overturned. Prosecutors have until 2 February to respond.

According to legal experts quoted by Reuters, a juror’s failure to disclose information is no guarantee of a conviction being overturned. They noted that many cases in which a conviction was overturned involved deliberate omission of information by a juror to try to get on the panel.

“The system does not favour overturning verdicts. We value finality,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, adding that the judge has “broad discretion” in this case.

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