Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time confidante Ghislaine Maxwell was transferred Monday to a New York City jail plagued by coronavirus concerns and other problems as she faces charges that she recruited girls, one as young as 14, for him to sexually abuse.
Maxwell, 58, was moved to the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn as prosecutors sought to schedule a court appearance for her this week in Manhattan federal court, the Bureau of Prisons said. She had been locked up at a New Hampshire jail since authorities
at a US$1 million estate she purchased there.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, was the former girlfriend and long-time close associate of Epstein, who killed himself at a federal jail in Manhattan last August while he awaited trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
“Somebody made the conscious decision, ‘let’s not house her where Epstein was housed’,” said Jack Donson, a former prison official who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than two decades.
Maxwell has been indicted on multiple charges, including that she conspired to entice girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein from 1994 through 1997.
Several Epstein victims have described Maxwell as his chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for abuse. She has denied wrongdoing and called claims against her “absolute rubbish”.
Late Monday, a judge said Maxwell could appear at her arraignment and bail hearing by video because of the pandemic, but those scheduling limitations require it be held Thursday or next week- not Friday as her lawyer requested.
Prosecutors have said Maxwell “poses an extreme risk of flight”. She has three passports, is wealthy with lots of international connections, and has “absolutely no reason to stay in the United States and face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence”, they wrote in a memo.
Donson, who advises white-collar criminals on what to expect in prison, said the lock-up on the Brooklyn waterfront was akin to the federal prison system’s version of high-rise flats – highly secure, with lifts to move inmates from floor-to-floor, air-conditioned cells and limited room for recreation or other activities.
The facility, opened as a federal jail in the early 1990s, houses about 1,600 inmates. One of its two main buildings is a century-old former US Navy warehouse.
The jail’s former warden, Cameron Lindsay, said it is “one of the most troubled” facilities in the federal prison system and had a “unique history of staff misconduct”.
“You go from living a life like Maxwell to all of a sudden being in a situation where you’re being strip-searched and having people look into your body cavities,” Lindsay said. ‘That is a crushing experience”.
Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanging by his neck in a different federal jail in New York City in August. Medical examiners concluded his death was a suicide.
Lindsay said MDC officials would have to weigh whether to keep Maxwell in her small cell alone or housed with another female prisoner.
A cellmate might help prevent her from attempting suicide, a critical issue following Epstein’s death, but Lindsay said the nature of her charges and her high profile also makes her a target.
For other prisoners, injuring Maxwell “would be a badge of honour”, said Lindsay.
On its website Monday, the Bureau of Prisons listed five inmates and six staff members at the Brooklyn jail currently testing positive for coronavirus, while another eight inmates and 35 staff members previously recovered from the disease.
Under the prison system’s coronavirus protocols, Maxwell faces an immediate 14-day quarantine and testing for the virus.