Ghislaine Maxwell appeal: Jeffrey Epstein associate asks court to overturn conviction

ByAaron Katersky and James Hill ABCNews logo
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Ghislaine Maxwell asks court to overturn sex trafficking conviction
Jeffrey Epstein's associate asked the court to overturn her conviction and 20-year prison sentence for recruiting and grooming underage girls.

Ghislaine Maxwell asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to overturn her conviction and 20-year prison sentence for recruiting and grooming the underage girls who Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused, arguing she was immunized by an agreement federal prosecutors in Florida arranged with Epstein in 2007.

"The plea agreement applies to preclude this prosecution," defense attorney Diana Fabi Samson told a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Denying the viability of this plea agreement strikes a dagger in the heart of the trust between the government and its citizens regarding plea agreements."

Maxwell raised the same argument during trial and asked for a hearing to explore what the Florida prosecutors intended. The trial judge rejected that, ruling prosecutors in New York were not bound by the agreement.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor repeated the view that the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan was not bound by the prior agreement with Epstein and said, regardless, it did not apply to Maxwell.

"The central promise in the non-prosecution agreement is a promise by the Southern District of Florida not to prosecute Epstein in that district," assistant U.S. attorney Andrew Rohrbach said. "This is a document entered into by the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida intended to bind the Southern District of Florida and that district alone."

In her written appeal, Maxwell's attorneys argued she was made a "proxy" for Epstein, who died by suicide in prison while awaiting trial, to "satisfy public outrage" about his conduct. They also argued Maxwell was denied a fair trial, in part, because one of the jurors failed to disclose his own history of sexual abuse during jury selection.

Neither point came up during oral arguments.

Maxwell is currently incarcerated in a low-security prison in Tallahassee and eligible for release in 2037.