November 4, 2021
The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is subjected to such invasive surveillance in jail that it “rivals scenes of Dr Hannibal Lecter’s incarceration” from The Silence of the Lambs, her lawyer has argued in making yet another request for bail pending her trial.
Maxwell is charged in Manhattan federal court for allegedly procuring teenage girls for the disgraced wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Opening arguments in Maxwell’s case are scheduled to begin on 29 November.
“Maxwell’s conditions of detention for the past 16 months continue to be reprehensible and utterly inappropriate for [a] woman on the cusp of turning 60 with no criminal record or history of violence. It is unwarranted, unrelenting, and utterly inappropriate,” her lead attorney, Bobbi C Sternheim, wrote in court papers.
“[She] has been subject to physical and emotional abuse by the correction officers, poor and unsanitary living conditions, insufficient nutrition, difficulties reviewing the millions of legal discovery documents in the case against her, and sleep deprivation.”
The lawyer also complained about flashlight checks every 15 minutes at night that were preventing Maxwell from sleeping, hostility from guards and being tracked by surveillance cameras as she walked through the facility.
Sternheim, who has discussed these alleged conditions in prior court papers, has also argued that Maxwell is “over-managed because of the intense criticism” that followed Epstein’s jailhouse suicide in August 2019, weeks after his arrest on sex trafficking charges.
Sternheim has previously invoked The Silence of the Lambs – in which Anthony Hopkins plays an imprisoned serial killer – to describe Maxwell’s jail conditions.
In April, Sternheim said in written arguments to a federal appeals court: “Though she is a model prisoner who poses no danger to society and has done literally nothing to prompt ‘special’ treatment, she is kept in isolation – conditions fitting for Hannibal Lecter but not a 59-year-old woman who poses no threat to anyone.”
Asked for comment, the US Bureau of Prisons said in an email: “For privacy, safety, and security reasons, we decline to comment about the conditions of confinement for any particular inmate.”
They did say that the bureau was “committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public” and that “additionally, the BoP takes allegations of staff misconduct seriously and consistent with national policy, refers all allegations for investigation, if warranted.
“Incidents of potential criminal activity or misconduct inside BoP facilities are thoroughly investigated for potential administrative discipline or criminal prosecution,” the email also said.
The filings came just before the weeks-long process of selecting a jury began on Thursday in New York.
Maxwell has said she is innocent of charges alleging that she recruited teenagers who were not yet adults for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004, Judge Alison Nathan told 132 prospective jurors.
The judge warned prospective jurors not to discuss the case with anyone or research it, on the internet or anywhere else.
She said the final jury of 12 jurors and six alternates will be asked to render a verdict after a trial expected to last about six weeks based only on evidence they learn about in the courtroom.