A lovely idea — and one that would almost certainly be endorsed by the British and French. Jeffrey Epstein’s accused pimp and sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell has put together a new bid to exit the Metropolitan Detention Center while awaiting trial in federal court. Her attorneys want to place her and her husband’s assets into a special kind of receivership, plus Maxwell will renounce her citizenship in the UK and France to reduce her options for fleeing the US:
The charges carry a presumption of pretrial detention. And while the judge has previously ruled that Maxwell is a flight risk and there are no conditions that could ensure her future court appearances, her attorneys proposed two additional conditions.
“Ms. Maxwell will renounce her French and British citizenship to eliminate any opportunity for her to seek refuge in those countries, if the Court so requires,” defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said.
The second condition would put her and her husband’s assets into an account monitored by a retired federal judge and a former federal prosecutor.
There’s an exception for the money already set aside to pay for her criminal and civil legal case fees, which has previously been disclosed as $7.6 million, and $450,000 in a personal account for her husband’s living expenses.
This is the third attempt by Maxwell to get sprung from jail since her arrest last summer. The most recent bid got shot down in December, even though Maxwell’s attorneys claimed to have put together a “comprehensive bail package” that would guarantee her appearance at her trial in July. Judge Alison Nathan was left unmoved by the attempt at that time, even with friends and family pitching in their assets to increase the surety. Nathan concluded almost exactly two months ago that “no conditions of release can reasonably assure [Maxwell’s] appearance at future proceedings.”
This won’t convince Judge Nathan either, attorneys told Newsweek last night, in part because the renunciation might not work in the first place, at least in France. And that’s the country that would most concern prosecutors — thanks to another famous French fugitive:
Georges Lederman, of international law firm Withersworldwide, told Newsweek Maxwell’s application was designed to stop her using the fact France does not extradite its citizens to escape justice.
The former New York prosecutor and special counsel said: “Should she jump bail and leave the country, by giving up her citizenship in France she would not be able to, for example, return to France and then claim citizenship because France does not extradite its citizens.
“The famous case of Roman Polanski is the one we think about. France refused to extradite Roman Polanski based on his dual citizenship, French and Polish.”
The case of Polanski has its parallels to the Epstein/Maxwell case. Like Epstein, Polanski was accused of sexually assaulting underage girls, and even got tried for it in the pre-#MeToo era of the 1970s. Polanski fled before sentencing, and the French have refused to extradite him. Until the Harvey Weinstein case embarrassed the film industry, Hollywood made Polanski a cause celebre, for no other reason that he chickened out and ran after getting convicted of victimizing a 13-year-old girl. (And France still refuses to extradite Polanski to this day.)
But even if France didn’t want Maxwell, Lederman points out the obvious:
He added: “I don’t think this will be successful. Should she somehow evade the U.S., she would have to escape in the middle of the night in some manner other than air travel—because part of any deal would be that she would have to surrender her passport.
“There are many other places she could go where there are no extradition treaties with the U.S., many nations in South America, she could go to China, so I’m not sure it’s a winning strategy.”
Maxwell’s looking at spending the rest of her life in prison, especially after Epstein took the easy way out and left her holding the bag. How much of her fortune would she sacrifice to avoid that? Half? Three quarters? Everything? I’d bet Maxwell’s fine with going all in. Judge Nathan apparently thought so too in December, and won’t likely change her mind now.