Much in the still-pending Jeffrey Epstein case may depend on how the prosecution goes for his alleged long-time accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell. Although Epstein’s quick death under suspicious circumstances in 2019, from hanging in his Manhattan jail cell, spawned a slogan (#EpsteinDidntKillHimself) and a thousand memes, there are reasons to hope Maxwell will survive to see her trial date in the summer of 2021.
All of the reasons map back to what appears to be a better appreciation at the U.S. Justice Department that evildoers are likely to try to take Maxwell out – just as they had motive to take Epstein out, although the true method of his death may never be proven.
One of the features of that better appreciation has already been noted at LU. Ghislaine Maxwell has been indicted, like Epstein, in the Southern District of New York. But after she was scooped up in New Hampshire on 2 July, she was transferred not to Manhattan, where Epstein had been held, but to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, which falls under the Eastern District of New York.
That arrangement alone will force would-be assassins who may have had Manhattan “wired” to leave a trail of detectable contacts by seeking cooperation in Brooklyn. It also puts two separate U.S. jurisdictions, SDNY and EDNY, in play as regards Maxwell’s processing and safety, making it less possible for anyone involved to act furtively.
The New York Post reported on Sunday (12 July) that Maxwell was being moved around frequently in the Brooklyn MDC, and had been required, on arrival, to sleep in paper garments, so that there would be nothing to hang her with in the nighttime hours.
Proactive precautions are being taken, in other words. If I had to bet, I’d bet the Brooklyn MDC has to report directly to Washington every day on Ms. Maxwell’s status. The Bureau of Prisons and DOJ leadership won’t be leaving that to the good offices of the EDNY. (In fact, they’ve probably rotated in some supervision and outside corrections officers who have no family interests in the state of New York. That’s what I’d do.)
The timing of the Maxwell grab is also informative. Back in June, when the ex-U.S. Attorney for the SDNY – Geoffrey Berman – was removed from his position, it was my assumption that Bill Barr had some reason to want him gone. It certainly occurred to me that the Epstein debacle happened on Berman’s watch. Whether that was because of negligence or something else on Berman’s part is beyond the scope of responsible speculation.
Other information I found at the time was about a case of money-laundering on behalf of Iran, which had been peculiarly mishandled by the SDNY Attorney’s office. But I was writing on 21 June 2020 as this played out, and we hadn’t yet seen what else happened on 21 June.
What else happened was that Audrey Strauss, Berman’s deputy, was announced as the Acting U.S. Attorney, and Berman left. The indictment of Ghislaine Maxwell, filed within days (based on her arrest date), was set for the signature of Audrey Strauss, with the signature block designating her as “Acting United States Attorney” — meaning she was in the job at the time, and not just signing as deputy. The (sealed) indictment, at the NPR link below, doesn’t have a date on it, but it would have been between 21 June and 2 July.
That’s a flashing red light that Berman had to be excused before Maxwell was indicted and the pre-trial process launched for her. But the indictment, which followed swiftly, was clearly already in progress.
Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire, at a property she had purchased in December 2019, on 2 July. According to an FBI official, the Bureau had been keeping an eye on her there:
In the months since Epstein died, federal agents have been keeping an eye on Maxwell, according to William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. He said the effort involved FBI offices in Boston; Newark, N.J.; New Haven, Conn.; and Albany, N.Y.
As LU also noted, Maxwell was denied bail on 14 July, after strenuous representations from the U.S. Attorney that she was a significant flight risk. That’s probably true – but it’s also probably true that she’ll be safer in the fully alerted, intensively supervised custody of the Brooklyn MDC than she would be anywhere else on the planet. (Her own attorney’s proposal that she reside in an upscale hotel sounded like a death wish.)
Another curious factor came to light this week: that Maxwell is apparently married in secret to a spouse whom she has refused to name to federal authorities. It seems unlikely the feds can’t discover pretty quickly who it is. But if the press doesn’t know yet, that’s an interesting data point. The spouse, whose identity would be a window of vulnerability for Maxwell, may be under de facto federal protection.