Ghislaine Maxwell attorneys, prosecutors spar over flight risk concerns

Maxwell expected to appear in court via video conference at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday

Prosecutors and the legal team representing embattled British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell will face off Tuesday to try to convince a judge whether Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend and longtime associate should be released on bail or if she's too much of a flight risk.

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Maxwell, who was arrested July 2 in connection with allegations she recruited teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse in the 1990s, will face a federal court judge for the first time, albeit virtually, for her bail hearing and arraignment.

One of the biggest factors to be addressed at Tuesday's hearing will surround whether or not Maxwell will try to flee if she is freed from jail while awaiting trial.

On Monday, prosecutors with the Southern District of New York submitted court papers asking the judge to keep Maxwell behind bars, citing “glaring red flags” that show she poses a “clear” flight risk, they wrote.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell on March 15, 2005, in New York City. (Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

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In the document, prosecutors sought to boost arguments that the 58-year-old citizen of the U.S., the United Kingdom and France should remain behind bars until trial. They said she had the money, the means and the incentive to flee since she could face many years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors identify the following reasons why Maxwell should continue to be held without bail:

  • Maxwell “is a citizen of a country that does not extradite its own citizens;”
  • She “appears to have access to considerable wealth domestically and abroad;”
  • Her “finances are completely opaque; and”
  • Maxwell “appears to be skilled at living in hiding.”

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“Instead of attempting to address the risks of releasing a defendant with apparent access to extraordinary financial resources, who has the ability to live beyond the reach of extradition in France, and who has already demonstrated a willingness and ability to live in hiding, the defendant instead proposes a bail package that amounts to little more than an unsecured bond,” prosecutors further state.

Maxwell was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, where she was living on a wooded estate she purchased for $1 million last December. The FBI had been keeping tabs on her after she disappeared from public view following Epstein’s arrest a year ago.

She was then moved to New York City to face federal charges.

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On Friday, Maxwell’s lawyers filed arguments that said she’s being made a scapegoat after Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan lockup last August. They said she should be freed on $5 million bond secured by a property in the U.K., which is worth approximately $3.75 million, court papers show. The bail package, which was signed by six of Maxwell’s associates, would also require she be held under electronic monitoring and surrender her travel documents.

Lawyers cited reports of novel coronavirus infections spreading through federal jails as one of the reasons to free Maxwell, arguing that if “she continues to be detained, her health will be at serious risk and she will not be able to receive a fair trial.”

The case for bail is also strengthened by the fact that the government’s case “is based primarily on the testimony of three individuals about events that allegedly occurred roughly 25 years ago,” the defense papers state. “It is inherently more difficult to prosecute cases relating to decades-old conduct.”

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Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner at Tucker Levin PLLC, told FOX Business that regardless her attorneys’ argument in favor of Maxwell’s release, “she has an extremely uphill battle, to say the least.”

“This case involves such serious conduct over such a long period of time, with so many victims and is so in the public eye that I think a judge is very unlikely to grant her bail. Period.” Levin said. “I think the coronavirus argument is very, is compelling for nonviolent offenders, but in this particular case ... I don't think arguing coronavirus is compelling when you have, dozens, if not hundreds of violent sexual assaults.”

Maxwell’s charges include that she conspired to entice girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein from 1994 through 1997 at his homes in New York City, Florida and New Mexico and at Maxwell’s residence in London.

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Epstein was arrested in July 2019 and was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges of women and girls in Florida and New York in the early 2000s when he died by suicide in custody.

Levin referenced the federal government’s original bail application, which outlined some of the financial transactions between Epstein and Maxwell. The history, he said, shows she enabled the financier’s criminal behavior and has the money and the means to go into hiding if she wanted to. Their financial relationship also makes it hard for Maxwell to be viewed as one of Epstein’s victims, despite her defense team’s and friends’ efforts to do so, Levin said.

Ghislaine Maxwell was reportedly arrested at her $1 million New Hampshire home. (Google Maps)

“I think what the government laid out is that she has access to a great deal of money, and that she has the ability to flee. And that she and Jeffrey Epstein had a very close relationship and that the evidence shows that she enabled his criminal behavior,” he continued. “So, I think that the defense is going to have a very hard time portraying her as a victim of Jeffrey Epstein.”

Prosecutors said at least one woman and possibly more were expected to appear at Tuesday's hearing. They also revealed that additional individuals have offered the government evidence to support its case since Maxwell's arrest.

“The Government is deeply concerned that if the defendant is bailed, the victims will be denied justice in this case," prosecutors wrote.

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David Weinstein, also a former federal prosecutor and a Florida-based attorney for Hinshaw & Culbertson, said after reading prosecutors’ argument on Monday, he believed there is a 50-50 chance Maxwell will be kept in jail.

But if bail is set, Weinstein predicted it would be done at a higher amount than the $5 million recommended by the defense and would require it be secured using a property within the U.S.

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“On the government side, they’re going to say, ‘Look, she was part of his criminal enterprise. He's now gone. She was the highest-ranking member of that criminal enterprise and now she's the person at the top and the person should be held responsible and accountable for all the actions,’” Weinstein predicted earlier in the day. “But I think ... the defense is going to use that victim card to say that she fell into the same type of trap that these people did. That she was not aware of what he was doing when he was in private and that you can't hold her accountable for his actions.”

Maxwell is expected to appear in court via videoconference on Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST. If convicted, she faces up to 35 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.