A federal judge rejected Ghislaine Maxwell’s request to gag her critics but warned she would ‘not hesitate’ to take action if anyone stepped out of line.
Judge Alison Nathan said on Thursday she did not believe an order was needed to ensure that Maxwell gets a fair trial.
But the judge said she would ensure ‘strict compliance’ in the future with rules about what the FBI, prosecutors and victims’ lawyers can say.
The ruling is a blow for Maxwell and could be the start of a tough day for her as a judge in a separate case could approve dozens of pages of sealed documents about her for release.
Maxwell’s lawyers had claimed that comments by the prosecutors and victims’ lawyers meant that a jury could be prejudiced against her.
Attorneys for Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam objected to the FBI referring to her as a ‘slithering snake’ at a press conference announcing her arrest on July 2.
In their seven-page letter, they painted Maxwell as the victim and demanded anyone speaking out against her face contempt charges.
In her ruling at federal court in New York, Judge Nathan said she expected all parties to ‘exercise great care’ to comply with the court rules, especially those about ‘professional responsibility’.
She wrote: ‘In light of this clear expectation, the court does not believe that further action is needed at this time to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.
‘But the court warns counsel and agents for the parties and counsel for potential witnesses that going forward it will not hesitate to take appropriate action in the face of violations of any relevant rules.
‘The court will ensure strict compliance with those rules and will ensure that the defendant’s right to a fair trial will be safeguarded’.
Prosecutors claim that Maxwell groomed girls as young as 14 and delivered them to a ‘trap’, so she and Epstein could abuse them.
Maxwell, 58, a British socialite, is currently in federal prison in Brooklyn after Judge Nathan denied her bail and called her a flight risk.
The letter from Maxwell’s lawyers, which was filed on Tuesday, said: ‘We write to request that the Court enter an order prohibiting the Government, its agents and counsel for witnesses from making extrajudicial statements concerning this case.
‘Although Ms. Maxwell is presumed innocent, the Government, its agents, witnesses and their lawyers have made, and continue to make, statements prejudicial to a fair trial.
‘A defendant must be judged by a jury of her peers based on evidence presented at trial, not in the media’.
Maxwell’s lawyer, Jeff Pagliuca, outlined seven wide-ranging categories which prosecutors, the FBI and victims’ lawyers should be banned from talking about.
This included ‘the character or reputation of the accused’ and ‘any opinion as to the accused’s guilt or innocence or as to the merits of the case or the evidence in the case’.
Pagliuca said he had been forced to act after the inappropriate handling of the case, starting with the raid at Maxwell’s $1 million home in New Hampshire on July 2nd.
He complained she was apprehended ‘without notice’, even though her lawyers were in regular contact with prosecutors.
Pagliuca wrote: ‘Because plain vanilla surrenders lack the fanfare and attendant media coverage afforded to secret, armed, raids at dawn, the Government chose to invade Ms. Maxwell’s New Hampshire residence, arrest her, and stage a media presentation that included numerous statements that prejudice Ms. Maxwell’s right to a fair trial’.
The letter strongly objected to comments by Audrey Strauss, the top federal prosecutor overseeing her case, that Maxwell lied because the truth was almost unspeakable’.
Pagliuca complained about FBI Special Agent William Sweeney calling Maxwell a ‘villain’ who has ‘slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire’.
The letter said: ‘Thus, Mr. Sweeney offers the Government’s, again flatly wrong, opinions about character and guilt while, at the same time, invoking a semi-biblical reference involving a snake slithering away to a garden in New Hampshire’.
Among the others earning Pagliuca’s ire was David Boies, a lawyer representing several Epstein victims including Prince Andrew’s accuser Virginia Roberts.
He made the alleged error of saying that Maxwell will be under ‘tremendous pressure to cooperate’, Pagliuca said.
He wrote: ‘It appears that given any opportunity lawyers associated with the prosecution of this case will offer any opinion that damages Ms. Maxwell’s opportunity for a fair trial’.
Maxwell has denied all the allegations against her and her trial is due to take place next July.