A lawyer for financier Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend on Tuesday asked a judge presiding over her sex crimes case to impose a gag order on lawyers and others to reduce prejudicial pretrial publicity and protect her chances of a fair trial.
The attorney, Jeffrey Pagliuca, filed a letter in Manhattan federal court citing public comments made by Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, the head of New York’s FBI office and lawyers for accusers of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell after her July 2 arrest in Bradford, New Hampshire.
He said the comments show that an order is necessary to prevent “prejudicial pretrial publicity by the government, its agents, and lawyers for alleged witnesses.”
In particular, he cited comments at a news conference by William Sweeney, head of New York’s FBI office, that referenced Maxwell as “one of the villains in this investigation” and compared her to a snake that “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire.”
Prosecutors declined through a spokesperson to comment on the gag order request.
The request came on the same day that publicity in Maxwell’s favour came during a White House news conference when President Donald Trump was asked about her and said: “I just wish her well, frankly.”
Trump also said of Maxwell: “I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well.”
Maxwell, 58, pleaded not guilty last week to charges that she recruited three girls, one as young as 14, in the 1990s for Epstein to sexually abuse during massage sessions she sometimes participated in at his Manhattan mansion and in Palm Beach, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.
Epstein, 66, took his life last August at a Manhattan federal jail while he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges related to the sexual abuse of girls and women in Manhattan and Florida in the early 2000s.
Maxwell was ordered held without bail until a July 2021 trial by Judge Alison J. Nathan.
On Tuesday, Nathan issued a written order saying she had received a “significant number of letters and messages from nonparties that purport to be related to this case.” She called them “procedurally improper or irrelevant” to the judicial proceedings and said they would be ignored.
At a bail hearing last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe argued against bail by saying Maxwell had been less than forthcoming when she was interviewed by Pretrial Services.
“In addition to failing to describe in any way the absence of proposed co-signers of a bond, the defendant also makes no mention whatsoever about the financial circumstances or assets of her spouse whose identity she declined to provide,” Moe said.