It was the day Ghislaine Maxwell had spent nine months and 13 days waiting for – the chance to plead her innocence in front of a packed New York courtroom.
An arraignment is usually a procedural affair, particularly in the time of Covid where defendants mostly opt to appear via videolink, but Maxwell was determined to have her moment before the judge.
The British socialite appeared in person last night for the first time since her arrest in July. She was pleading not guilty to the latest sex trafficking charges against her. Maxwell had been granted rare permission by Judge Alison Nathan to attend the courthouse.
The 59-year-old had already pleaded not guilty to charges of recruiting and grooming teenage girls from 1994-1997 to provide sexual massages to her one-time boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein. The latest allegations involved the sex trafficking of a minor.
Maxwell’s lawyers have been claiming for months she has lost weight and her hair has been falling out as a result of the “Kafkaesque” conditions in a Brooklyn federal prison.
She walked into the courtroom yesterday, appearing slightly frail, dressed in a baby blue T-shirt and black tracksuit bottoms with a white face mask.
Her hair was shoulder length, unlike the pixie hairstyle she sported during her last appearance in July.
A member ofMaxwell’s family was in court for the hearing. It was believed to be one of her sisters. Maxwell turned to wave at her relative, who was dressed in a black beret, sunglasses and a mask, after entering her not guilty plea.
One of her alleged victims was also in the public gallery for the hearing.
Maxwell’s appearance was the first time she has been seen by a member of her family since she was arrested in a dawn raid on the home she shared with her husband, Scott Borgerson, in New Hampshire last July.
Borgerson, 44, an American entrepreneur, was not in court. Little has been seen of him since he stepped down from CargoMetrics, his tech company, to avoid being a “distraction”.
Ian Maxwell, the defendant’s brother, who after months of silence last month launched a PR campaign to have his sister freed from custody, was unable to travel from Britain because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Ghislaine Maxwell requested to appear in person after a hearing held by videolink in January was hijacked by 14,000 QAnon conspiracy theorists who illegally streamed the proceedings on YouTube.
Sources close to the Maxwell family told The Daily Telegraph the appearance was about her wanting to “face her accusers head on”, as well being a welcome break from her prison cell at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn.
Maxwell’s legal team has applied for bail and been rejected three times. Judge Alison Nathan ruled that with three passports and considerable assets she was still a significant flight risk.
In the latest appeal, Maxwell offered to rescind her British and French citizenship in order to leave prison to prepare for her trial at home.
Appealing to a higher court, her lawyers told the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals that Maxwell had not been given an adequate opportunity to prove she would not flee if she was allowed to await trial at home under 24-hour armed guard and with collateral posted to support a US$28.5 million bail.
The bond, one of the largest in US history, comes from joint funds from Borgerson, as well as money put up by family members and friends.
Maxwell’s team has also complained about the conditions of her detention, which her brother says is “tantamount to torture”.
They say she is housed in a 1.8m by 2.7m cell with a concrete bed, that guards shine a torch into her room at intervals of 15 minutes in the night, and that the food is “inedible”.
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