In the latest legal spat between Ghislaine Maxwell and the feds, lawyers for the alleged accomplice to Jeffrey Epstein suggest she got a “black eye” from shielding her face from the harsh lighting inside her jail cell at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.
The British socialite and accused sex-trafficker has been denied bail four times since her arrest for grooming minors last July. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Maxwell’s request to be released on bond. At oral arguments the day before, her lawyer David Oscar Markus complained about her conditions in the federal lockup, claiming MDC guards were keeping Maxwell awake at night by conducting suicide checks and flashing lights in her cell every 15 minutes.
In its order, the appeals court said, “To the extent Appellant seeks relief specific to her sleeping conditions, such request should be addressed to the District Court.”
Bobbi Sternheim, another attorney for Maxwell, wasted no time writing to a Manhattan federal court judge over the 59-year-old’s supposed sleep deprivation. She also included a photo of Maxwell with a bruise under her left eye as an exhibit.
“While Ms. Maxwell is unaware of the cause of the bruise, as reported to medical and psych staff, she has grown increasingly reluctant to report information to the guards for fear of retaliation, discipline, and punitive chores,” Sternheim wrote Judge Alison J. Nathan on Thursday. “However, there is concern that the bruise may be related to the need for Ms. Maxwell to shield her eyes from the lights projected into her cell throughout the night.”
According to Sternheim, Maxwell “resorts to using a sock or towel to cover her eyes in an awkward attempt to shield them from disrupting illumination every 15 minutes.”
“Ms. Maxwell continues to be disrupted throughout the night by guards shining a flash/strobe light into her cell, claiming that her breathing must be checked,” Sternheim added. “The myth that Ms. Maxwell’s conditions of confinement are related to her being a suicide risk was laid to rest during the oral argument: There is nothing to support that contrived claim.”
On Wednesday night, Sternheim wrote, MDC staff confronted Maxwell about the bruise covering her left eye and warned they’d place her in the lockup’s Special Housing Unit, or solitary confinement, if she didn’t tell them how she got it.
The lawyer asked the court to direct MDC to stop its 15-minute checks of Maxwell or “justify the need for the disruptive flashlight surveillance.”
Maxwell’s family has criticized prison staff for their handling of the bruise.
“I am shocked my sister’s guards didn’t immediately refer her for proper medical care,” Maxwell's brother, Ian, said in a statement Thursday night. “Instead they bullied and harassed her, effectively blaming the victim. The simple solution is to review the round-the-clock security camera footage to see what may have occurred. Apart from whatever happened in this ‘House of Horrors,’ I can report that Ghislaine’s family and friends continue to support her. We are confident, once this is over, it will be the prosecutor who has a proverbial black eye.”
Nathan has ordered prosecutors and MDC legal counsel to answer whether Maxwell is being subjected to flashlight surveillance as described; what the basis is for doing so; and whether the jail can provide Maxwell with an appropriate eye covering.
Maxwell’s legal team has repeatedly claimed she’s suffering from “detrimental” conditions in the federal detention center. In response, the government fired off its own missive to the court claiming Maxwell was cared for as well as any other prisoner, and that jail staff had to remind her to clean her cell and flush her toilet.
When Maxwell appeared before a judge last week, the socialite did not appear to be frail or in poor health as her lawyers have claimed.
Maxwell faces trial this summer for allegedly grooming, abusing and trafficking four underage girls for Epstein from a period covering 1994 to 1997 and 2001 to 2004. Her lawyers asked Nathan to postpone the trial until next year.