Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime associate of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, speaks at a news conference on oceans and sustainable development at the United Nations in New York, June 25, 2013 in this screengrab taken from United Nations TV file footage.
UNTV | Reuters
Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite charged with abetting Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of young girls, on Friday became the first federal jail inmate in New York City to receive an in-person lawyer visit since coronavirus restrictions took effect months ago, an attorney told CNBC.
Maxwell, 58, got that visit in a Brooklyn jail even though many other inmates who have been held much longer there and in a Manhattan federal jail have been unable to receive visits from their own attorneys because of Covid-19 rules.
“I know it’s the first in-person visit,” said Sean Hecker, an attorney involved in litigation over conditions and visits at the Metropolitan Detention Center, where the wealthy Maxwell has been held without bail in solitary confinement since early July.
“It is outrageous that the first in-person visit would be granted to a well-heeled British socialite who the president of the United States stated that he wished well,” said Hecker.
“It only serves to confirm that our government doesn’t understand that they operate two different systems of justice, one for the well-heeled and well-connected, and one for everyone else,” he said.
The Daily News first reported that Maxwell had received a visit from two of her attorneys Friday. The newspaper cited sources who said she was the first inmate in a federal jail in New York to get such a visit in months.
Hecker said he independently learned of the visit and knows that it was the first to either federal jail in the city.
Hecker is representing the Federal Defenders of New York, a non-profit group of lawyers who defend indigent clients in federal criminal cases.
The group has a pending lawsuit over conditions at MDC. Recent court filings show that there had been no in-person legal visits in the jail as of last week.
Hecker said federal officials have recently discussed allowing a number of inmates at the jail to start getting visits from their lawyers. But he noted that the visits would be limited at first to just one lawyer and only for one hour.
Maxwell, however, got a visit from two lawyers for three hours, he said.
Hecker said that he was angry about the preferential treatment for Maxwell, but he did not blame her lawyers for seeking and getting the visit.
He questioned why the BOP would allow her more liberal terms for a visit than the agency had discussed with lawyers for the Federal Defenders, if only because the public perception of such disparate treatment “is so entirely problematic.”
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, in an emailed statement, said, “While we do not discuss a specific inmate’s conditions of confinement, including whether a particular inmate receives an attorney visit, we can share the following general information about visits during the pandemic. These protocols remain in place today throughout the Bureau of Prisons’ correctional institutions.”
“During the pandemic, access to legal counsel remains a paramount requirement, but the BOP needs to reduce the risk of exposure created by external visitors,” the spokesman said.
“As such, while in general legal visits are suspended, case-by-case accommodations will be accomplished at the local level and confidential legal calls will be allowed in order to ensure inmates maintain access to counsel. We are facilitating attorney client-visitation, as well as judicial proceedings, via video conference, primarily at our detention centers.”
Maxwell’s lawyers this month lost their bid to have her moved to the jail’s general population, and to be subject to less restrictive supervision than she has experienced in the jail. The lawyers, who did not respond to a request for comment Friday, had said the conditions were making it difficult for Maxwell to prepare for her trial next year.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty in her case, where she is charged with recruiting and grooming several underage girls, one as young as 14 years old, in the mid-1990s, so that they could be abused by Epstein.
She and the wealthy investor Epstein years ago had been friends with Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as with Britain’s Prince Andrew.
Epstein, 66, died in August 2019 in the Manhattan federal jail from what has been officially ruled a suicide by hanging. He had been arrested the month before on child sex trafficking charges for alleged sexual abuse of underage girls from 2002 through 2005.
Trump, on the heels of Maxwell’s arrest, said that he wished her “well.” He later said he was offering her best wishes because of Epstein’s fate in jail.