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World: Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Judge Questions Would-Be Jurors About Mar-a-Lago

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At Ghislaine Maxwell’s upcoming sex-trafficking trial, jurors may hear about ritzy locations such as former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and two world-famous performing arts schools, according to comments made in court.

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On Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan began the voir dire process of jury selection, which involves questioning 231 potential jurors about their possible biases. Nathan asked members of the pool whether they have opinions about wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and Maxwell, his accused accomplice and former girlfriend, that make it difficult to be fair and impartial in the case.

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Nathan also asked potential jurors whether they have views about “people who are wealthy or have luxurious lifestyles,” (none said that they did) or know any witnesses, addresses and entities mentioned in the case. Jurors were presented with a list of those people and places and asked to review it before letting Nathan know whether any names were familiar. That record, however, isn't publicly available.

But under questioning by Nathan, multiple jurors mentioned they knew of Mar-a-Lago and Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, where Epstein was a donor in the 1990s, had a rental cabin and allegedly preyed on teen girls. One victim has said Maxwell and Epstein recruited her at the prestigious arts school in 1994 when she was around 13 years old, and that Epstein brought her to Trump's resort and asked the tycoon, “This is a good one, right?” According to the victim's lawsuit, Trump smiled and shared a laugh with the perverted financier. (The victim doesn't accuse Trump of any wrongdoing.)

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Meanwhile, at least one person reviewed the list and said they were familiar with Professional Children’s School, a prep school focused on the arts and athletics in Manhattan with a roster of famous alumni, including Yo-Yo Ma, Scarlett Johansson, and Macaulay Culkin. It’s unclear why the school could be mentioned at Maxwell's criminal trial.

Some potential jurors said in court that they’d heard of Epstein on the news, in particular after he died in jail, but not Maxwell.

One 24-year-old woman said she'd heard of Mar-a-Lago but that “would not impact my ability to be impartial.” She also told the court she'd once reported a professor who was allegedly coercing a student into a sexual relationship with them. That incident also wouldn't impact her suitability on the jury, she said.

A 41-year-old man, who said he has friends who went to Interlochen and the Professional Children’s School, also indicated he’d have no issues with being impartial. He did comment, however, that “historically, the legal system hasn’t worked out for certain members of society.”

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About 600 prospective jurors filled out questionnaires this month, and the final panel will be cut down to 12 jurors and six alternates. Opening statements in the six-week trial in Manhattan federal court are scheduled to begin on Nov. 29.

Prosecutors say Maxwell groomed and abused at least four underage girls for her ex-boyfriend, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, from 1994 through 2004. She has pleaded not guilty and adamantly denies any wrongdoing.

The FBI arrested the 59-year-old heiress in New Hampshire in July 2020, one year after Epstein was indicted in New York for the sex-trafficking of minors. When Epstein killed himself in jail while awaiting trial in August 2019, prosecutors shifted focus to the socialite, who they say was Epstein’s chief cooperator.

Maxwell is charged with six counts including sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking conspiracy. If convicted, she faces up to 80 years behind bars.

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail published a jailhouse interview with Maxwell, who claimed she’s been mistreated at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. Her lawyers have made similar accusations this year, even suggesting she got a “black eye” from constantly shielding her face from her jail cell’s harsh lighting.

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Maxwell’s lawyers say the government has unfairly made her a proxy for Epstein, but victims and their attorneys have for years alleged the socialite was a procurer for the perverted money-manager. (At an August 2019 hearing marking the end of Epstein’s charges, one accuser told the court, “Jeffrey is no longer here, and the women that helped him are,” before naming Maxwell and alleged co-conspirator Sarah Kellen as his accomplices.)

“I fear it will be impossible to get a fair trial,” Maxwell told friends, according to the Mail. “I have tremendous fear that overwhelmingly negative media stories will poison my jury pool and affect the outcome of my trial despite the evidence that will demonstrate everything the jurors thought they knew isn’t true.”

“I look forward to finally having my day in court to prove I played no part in Epstein’s crimes,” Maxwell added.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Lawyers left racism out of the trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s death. Here’s why. .
Prosecutors made no mention of the slain 25-year-old’s race until the very end of the trial.They concluded that racial animus guided Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan to pursue Arbery and shoot him without cause. For many who saw the video, that a Black man who was jogging down the street in the middle of the day was then cornered and shot dead by three white men unquestionably constituted a lynching motivated by the color of Arbery’s skin as he traveled through a mostly white suburb of Georgia.

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