Ghislaine Maxwell Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Trafficking Charges
Ghislaine Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges after authorities say she allegedly helped her longtime companion Jeffrey Epstein groom girls as young as 14 for sexual abuse — incidents that she allegedly participated in herself.
Maxwell appeared in court via a video call from the Brooklyn jail where she is currently being held. When asked how she wished to plead, she answered "not guilty, your honor," according to multiple news outlets, including CNBC.
Maxwell, 58, has been charged with six felonies, including conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor to engage in illegal sex acts, and perjury. She is being held without bond, and prosecutors describe her as a flight risk.
At a press conference earlier this month, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the multiple charges Maxwell faces, covering a period from at least 1994 to 1997.
According to Strauss, Maxwell, a British socialite and heiress who is Epstein's former girlfriend, helped Epstein "identify, befriend and groom minor victims of abuse."
The pair "had a method," Strauss alleged, involving befriending girls by "asking them questions about their lives and pretending to be taking an interest in them."
"After developing a rapport with the victims, Maxwell then tried to normalize sexual abuse with a minor victim through a process known as grooming," Strauss added, alleging that Maxwell would discuss sexual topics with the girls, undress in front of them and be present for sex acts involving the girls and Epstein.
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Strauss alleged the sexual contact with victims often began with "sexualized massages, during which the minor victims were fully or partially nude." She alleged these encounters "developed into sexual encounters, where Maxwell was sometimes present and participated."
Strauss also alleged Maxwell helped Epstein transport girls to his homes in New York City, Palm Beach, Fla., and Santa Fe, N.M. Strauss added that some alleged abuse took place at Maxwell's home in London.
Maxwell has long denied wrongdoing. Jeffrey S. Pagliuca, who has served as Maxwell's lawyer, did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Epstein was charged in July 2019 with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women from 2002 to 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla. He died on Aug. 10, 2019, at age 66 in a Manhattan jail. The official cause of death given by authorities was suicide.
Maxwell will appear in court again next month.
Her trial date has been set for July 2021.