British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the former right-hand to now-deceased convicted pedophile and Democratic financier Jeffrey Epstein, was in federal court Monday for a pre-trial hearing in which a number of motions were ruled on by the judge.
On one motion, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled that Maxwell’s accusers can testify against her in the upcoming trial while remaining anonymous to the media and the public, Fox News reported.
Witnesses granted public anonymity
The move marks a significant blow to Maxwell’s defense team, who had argued that the identity of their client’s alleged victims should be made public.
Judge Nathan saw things differently, however, citing recent precedent established in the sex trafficking trials of disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly and NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere.
“Given the sensitive and inflammatory nature of the conduct alleged, such publicity may cause further harassment and embarrassment, and other alleged victims of sex crimes may be deterred from coming forward,” the judge explained, according to Fox.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Nathan also rejected a motion from the defense that would have compelled prosecutors to refer to witnesses as Maxwell’s “accusers,” saying such an order would be “unnecessary and impractical.”
Instead, the judge will allow the government’s lawyers to refer to witnesses as “victims” and “minors,” if applicable.
Judge in Maxwell case: “Focus on the evidence”
The AP said the judge “also set limits on defense efforts to portray the Maxwell investigation as hasty and politically motivated, saying exploring such accusations would only confuse the jury.”
Instead, the trial ought to “focus on the evidence or lack of evidence and the credibility or lack of credibility of the witnesses,” the judge insisted.
According to the AP, the trial is set to begin later this month. In the meantime, Maxwell remains in jail on “charges that she recruited teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse and sometimes joined in the abuse,” the AP said.
According to Fox, “a judge refused to release Maxwell on a $28.5 million bail package” back in December 2020 over concerns she’d flee.
The Epstein associate has been behind bars for more than a year awaiting trial.