The government’s request is a rare instance of prosecutors’ wishes aligning with Maxwell’s.
Federal prosecutors pursuing charging against Ghislaine Maxwell have asked a New York court to temporarily halt civil proceedings against the woman, who is accused of running a child sex trafficking ring on behalf of the late Jeffrey Epstein.
In a letter to the courts, officials from the Southern District of New York said that civil lawsuits against Maxwell pose “significant risk” to their case and may “adversely affect the ongoing criminal prosecution” against her.
According to ABC News, the letter asserted that there is a “factual overlap between the civil and criminal cases.” If the civil lawsuits conclude or proceed faster than the prosecution’s case, evidence and witness testimony may be disclosed prematurely.
In their letter, the prosecutors explained that witnesses called to testify at civil hearings could be compelled to provide information about their involvement in criminal investigations—thereby revealing evidence that law enforcement does not yet want public.
“Such witnesses may be forced to testify about any efforts to assist the criminal investigation and prosecution, and may thereby expose facts about the investigation […] and could potentially expose witnesses and/or their families to harassment,” the letter said. “Moreover, permitting any discovery to proceed in this lawsuit would enable Maxwell to seek a preview of trial testimony in the criminal case, and would afford her with a broader array of discovery than she is entitled to in the criminal case.”
The civil lawsuit, notes ABC News, was filed by a woman pseudonymously identified in court documents as Jane Doe.
Doe’s allegations against Maxwell bear distinct resemblance to prosecutors’ claims—that Maxwell procured underage girls for the late financer Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell also purportedly partook in such girls’ sexual abuse.
“Epstein’s system of abuse was facilitated in large part by his co-conspirator and accomplice, Maxwell, who helped supply him with a steady stream of young and vulnerable girls,” the lawsuit states. “During Doe’s time in New York, Maxwell also regularly facilitated Epstein’s abuse of Doe and was frequently present when it occurred.”
Interestingly, ABC notes that Maxwell’s attorneys are pushing for a stay in the civil case alongside the federal government.
“Absent a stay, Ms. Maxwell will be forced to choose between her constitutional right to remain silent and her active and vigorous participation in defending and refuting [Doe’s] false claims in this case,” Maxwell attorney Laura Menninger wrote in a letter to the court.
Both requests have been criticized by Doe’s attorneys, who claim that, by granting a stay to a civil trial, Maxwell will be able to conceal her wrongdoing.
“The continuation of the last remaining civil avenue can furnish the public with critical information as to defendant Maxwell’s well-known criminal enterprise, how it was operated and all those involved,” said Doe’s attorney, Robert Glassman of Parish, Shea & Boyle, LLP. “[Doe] is best served by pressing forward with her claims—not waiting even longer for justice.”
Doe, says ABC News, is the only of Epstein’s accusers—totaling over 30—who has declined to discard her lawsuit in favor of receiving financial recompense from the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Fund, a non-adversarial program created by the billionaire’s estate this past summer.
Prosecutors stated that they respect Doe’s interest in continuing to pursue Maxwell and had considered other options prior to requesting a stay on the civil case.
“After carefully considering the issues in this case and the pending criminal case, the Government respectfully submits that nothing short of a full stay of this matter would address the Government’s concerns and preserve the public’s substantial interest in avoiding interference with prosecution of the criminal case,” prosecutors wrote.
Maxwell’s attorneys are also fighting requests to unseal their client’s 2016 depositions, made as part of a since-settled defamation lawsuit.