By TOM HAYS and LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – A US judge refused to overturn Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction for sex trafficking on Friday, even though a jury member did not reveal before the trial began that he had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
Maxwell, a British socialist, was convicted in December of helping millionaire Jeffrey Epstein sexually assault several teenage girls.
U.S. Judge Alison J. Nathan declined to order a new trial weeks after questioning the jury under oath in a New York courtroom about why he failed to disclose his personal story as a survivor of a questionnaire violation during the jury selection process.
The jury member had said that he “skimmed way too fast” through the questionnaire and did not intentionally give the wrong answer to a question about sexual abuse.
“I did not lie to join this jury,” he said.
In an opinion that will surely trigger an appeal in a higher court, Nathan said that the jury member did not reveal his previous sexual abuse during the jury selection process was very unfortunate, but not intentional.
The judge also concluded that the judge “had no bias against the defendant and could act as a fair and impartial judge.”
Had the jury answered the questions correctly, Maxwell’s lawyers would have said that they could potentially have opposed the man’s presence on the jury on the grounds that he might not be fair to a person accused of a similar crime.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Friday. Notices were given to Maxwell’s lawyers.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted of sex trafficking and other charges after a month-long trial that included testimonies from four women who said she played a role in preparing them for Epstein’s abuse.
Epstein took his own life in August 2019 while awaiting trial in a federal prison in New York on charges of sex trafficking.
Maxwell says she is innocent.
After the trial ended, the jury, which in court papers was only identified as Judge No. 50, gave interviews to several media outlets describing deliberations and revealing that he had been abused as a child. He said he persuaded some other jurors that an victim’s imperfect memory of abuse does not mean it did not happen.
Potential jurors in the case would have had to fill out a 50-page questionnaire including a question asking, “Have you or a friend or family member ever been sexually harassed, abused or sexually abused?”
The jury checked “No.”
The jury member said in one of the interviews that he did not remember being asked that question, which was No. 48 on the form.
Maxwell’s defense lawyers asked the judge to order a new trial immediately, but she said she could not do so without questioning the jury.
After Nathan questioned the jury in early March, lawyers on both sides filed written arguments. The prosecutor said the jury made an “honest mistake” and that it was “crystal clear” that Maxwell was given a fair trial.
Maxwell’s lawyers did not agree.
“Excusing Jury member 50’s false answer because he believes his hidden history of sexual assault did not affect his ability to act as a fair and impartial jury member does not satisfy the semblance of justice,” they argued. “Only a new trial would.”
But Nathan rejected that reasoning, writing that the jury’s claims that he remained impartial with Maxwell were correct.
When asked about it, he replied “sincerely and honestly, even when the answers he gave were the cause of personal embarrassment and remorse,” she said. “His tone, demeanor and sensitivity gave no indication of false testimony.”
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