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Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell file appeal asking court to vacate her sex trafficking conviction

<i>Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News/Getty Images</i><br/>Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell
Andrew Savulich/New York Daily N
Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News/Getty Images
Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell

By Lauren del Valle, CNN

Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell have asked a federal appellate court to vacate her 2021 sex trafficking conviction and dismiss the indictment, arguing prosecutors treated Maxwell as a proxy for her longtime associate Jeffrey Epstein to satisfy public outrage, according to a new court filing.

Maxwell’s attorneys first filed notice of her appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last July.

Maxwell, sentenced last year to 20 years in federal prison, was convicted for what prosecutors said was her participation in a yearslong scheme with Epstein to groom and sexually abuse underage girls. A lengthy legal brief filed Tuesday night details Maxwell’s defense arguments and a range of recourse her attorneys say the appellate court should grant her.

Her defense team argues in the brief that the indictment should be dismissed and conviction overturned because Maxwell is immunized by a 2007 non-prosecution agreement Epstein struck with federal prosecutors in Florida that included a provision not to charge any potential co-conspirators.

Maxwell was not listed explicitly on the document, and the judge in her trial ruled Maxwell’s legal team was not permitted to argue to the jury about the non-prosecution agreement in her defense.

Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later, authorities said.

A federal jury in Manhattan convicted Maxwell, now 61, of five of six federal charges against her: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy.

Prosecutors argued Maxwell and Epstein conspired to set up a scheme to lure young girls into sexual relationships with Epstein from 1994 to 2004 in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. Four women testified during the trial that Epstein abused them and that Maxwell facilitated the abuse and sometimes participated in it as well.

The statute of limitations long expired on the allegations connected to the criminal charges, according to Maxwell’s appellate filing, which also challenges the motives of the women who testified at trial.

The appeal also says the trial judge, the now-former US District Judge Alison Nathan, wrongfully denied Maxwell a new trial when it was determined a juror did not disclose that he was a victim of sexual abuse as a child during the selection process.

Maxwell’s sentence in June was based on three counts after the judge agreed two of the conspiracy counts she faced were repetitive.

Lawyers for the disgraced British heiress argue Maxwell was vilified throughout her prosecution and at a minimum should be resentenced or receive a significant sentence reduction if the case isn’t tossed. The filing argues that Nathan miscalculated, levying too harsh a prison sentence.

Maxwell has been detained since her arrest in July 2020, and prosecutors said she received credit for two years of time served. She is serving her sentence in a federal facility in Tallahassee, Florida, and her release date is listed as July 2037, according to Bureau of Prisons.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment on the filing. Prosecutors will respond to Maxwell’s defense arguments in court filings as the appellate litigation continues.

The filing of the appellate brief was delayed in part because Maxwell retained new legal counsel — a defense team also litigating Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes conviction in New York state court. The legal team that defended her at trial filed a lawsuit against her and her brother in another jurisdiction over what the lawyers said was an unpaid legal bill.

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