In a surprising move, Ghislaine Maxwell, the British heiress and confidante to the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire. Maxwell’s arrest could have a ripple effect on both criminal and civil matters ranging from the still uncertain status of Prince Andrew to a number of defamation lawsuits. One of Maxwell’s principal accuser was Virginia Roberts Giuffre who has filed lawsuits against Maxwell as well as figures like Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Frankly, as a criminal defense lawyer, I am surprised that Maxwell risked returning to the United States. She was believed to be living in Paris. It was well-known that the Justice Department was pursuing the case, including demands to interview Prince Andrew.
Her arrest may be unnerving for figures like Prince Andrew. She would be the ultimate cooperating witness if she decided to cooperate on broader criminal inquiries. Giuffre and others have alleged that she was the primary procurer of young girls for Epstein to abuse.
Such prosecutions are not easy given the passage of time. However, the government clearly has live witnesses like Giuffre who might have a significant impact on a jury. The government would have to show more than her mere presence at these homes or parties.
One interesting twist will be the infamous deal cut. I was a vocal critic of that deal with Epstein. Despite a strong case for prosecution, Epstein’s lawyers, including Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, were able to secure a ridiculous deal with prosecutors. He was accused of abusing abused more than forty minor girls (with many between the ages of 13 and 17). Epstein pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge of felony solicitation of underage girls in 2008 and served a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein was facing a 53-page indictment that could have resulted in life in prison in jail. However, he got the 13 month deal. Moreover, to my lasting surprise, the Senate approved the man who cut that disgraceful deal, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, as labor secretary. He later resigned.
That deal does not mention Maxwell but it expressly stated that federal prosecutors “will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” Any criminal charge linked to the Epstein case against Maxwell would seem to be a charge against a “potential co-conspirator of Epstein.”
That deal however was not lawfully executed by Acosta who did a great disservice not only to justice but more importantly these victims. Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach found, as many of us have long argued, that the deal cut by Acosta violated federal law and allowed the infamous financier to get a disgracefully low sentence. Here is the opinion.
Thus, the improper role played by the Justice Department in the case may actually help it now with any prosecution of Maxwell.