Politics

Jail guards interrupt Ghislaine Maxwell's sleep each 15 minutes to see if she continues to be respiration, the lawyer says

Ghislaine Maxwell attends Day 1 of the 4th Annual HOW Symposium on September 20, 2013 at Center 548 in New York City.

Laura Cavanaugh | Getty Images

A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell complained to a federal judge Tuesday that the accused accomplice of sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein was "overwhelmed" in prison. This includes interrupting wakes' sleep with a flashlight every 15 minutes to see if they are still breathing.

Maxwell's attorney also said the British celebrity in Brooklyn Federal Prison, New York City, was not being given enough time to review documents related to her criminal case and "prepare to defend her life."

The complaint comes 15 months after Maxwell's former boyfriend Epstein died of a suicide officially classified as suicide by hanging in another federal prison in New York City where the wealthy money manager was held for sex trafficking with children.

Weeks before his death, Epstein was found on the floor of his semi-conscious prison cell with markings on his neck in what was his first apparent suicide offer.

Two guards at the prison were criminally charged with trying to cover up their failure to monitor him and other inmates on the day of his death.

Maxwell is currently in 14-day quarantine after potentially being exposed to a prison worker with Covid-19, prosecutors said Monday. Prosecutors have said they tested negative for the coronavirus.

Her attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, said in a letter to Manhattan federal judge Alison Nathan on Tuesday that Maxwell was threatened with another seven days of quarantine if she refused to have two nasal swabs that test her for the coronavirus.

Sternheim complained that Maxwell was instructed to remove a Covid protective mask for "an oral inspection" and was initially not given any soap or toothbrush when she began quarantine.

The attorney also said the medical staff stopped Maxwell's daily checkups and "did not provide information about the results of the COVID tests" nor respond to her question about what to do if she becomes symptomatic.

And despite the fact that no employee is reportedly allowed to enter her cell in Brooklyn Prison during her quarantine, "an unidentified man came in to take pictures and a security guard came in to search that cell," Sternheim wrote recently Nathan.

Sternheim's letter states that Maxwell is a "nonviolent, exemplary remand inmate with no criminal history" or a history of violence, mental health problems, or suicidal thoughts.

Even so, the attorney wrote, Maxwell is "overwhelmed" in prison under conditions more restrictive than those available to terrorists, murderers, and other dangerous and vulnerable inmates held in the most restrictive environments of the federal prison system.

Sternheim asked Nathan to instruct jailer Heriberto Tellez to report directly to the judge and Maxwell's legal team on their "detention conditions" rather than relying on used prosecutor accounts in the US attorney's office for the southern district of New York.

The letter comes a day after those prosecutors wrote to Nathan to inform them of Maxwell's quarantine and that Maxwell himself had previously tested negative for Covid.

58-year-old Maxwell is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center without bail for allegedly recruiting and caring for several underage girls who were sexually abused by Epstein in the 1990s.

She was arrested in a million dollar hideout in New Hampshire in July, almost exactly a year after Epstein's own federal arrest.

Maxwell pleaded not guilty to the case and will be tried next year.

Epstein, who was friends with Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew, pleaded guilty to Florida State crimes in 2008, which included paying an underage girl for sexual services. In this case, he was imprisoned for 13 months.

Last year, Trump's then Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned after harshly criticizing Epstein for entering into a non-prosecution treaty with Epstein for federal crimes when Acosta was the U.S. attorney for Miami who agreed to to plead guilty.

The prosecutor's letter on Monday gave details of Maxwell's treatment in prison, including leaving the cell three times a week during quarantine for up to 30 minutes each time and using an email system to communicate with relatives and their lawyers.

Sternheim wrote in her own letter: "The letter shows an incomplete picture of Ms. Maxwell's detention conditions."

"The government highlights what Ms. Maxwell is allowed to do but not what she is denied: equality granted to other inmates in the general population," the defense attorney wrote.

"Ms. Maxwell has spent the [entire] pre-trial detention in de facto solitary confinement under the most restrictive conditions, under which she is excessively and invasively searched and monitored 24 hours a day," Sternheim said. "In addition to camera surveillance in her cell, an additional camera follows her movement when she is allowed to leave her isolation cell and focuses on Ms. Maxwell and her lawyer during personal legal visits."

"And despite the constant surveillance of the camera in the cell, Ms. Maxwell's sleep is interrupted every 15 minutes when she is woken up by a flashlight to see if she is breathing."

The attorney said prison officials admit that they “are unable to include her in the general population for her safety and the safety of the facility, but [cannot] explain why she withheld all other inmate opportunities from the general population will".

Sternheim said prosecutors' allegation that Maxwell "continues to have more time to review her discovery than any other inmate at the MDC, even while in quarantine" creates the unfair impression that she will be given a certificate.

"Given the extensive discovery in this case that the latest production alone contains 1.2 million documents, the time Ms. Maxwell has is insufficient to review and prepare the defense of her life," wrote the attorney.

Shortly after Sternheim's letter was put on the court record, Nathan ordered the attorney and prosecutors to meet and ask Sternheim to address Maxwell's concerns about the terms of her detention directly. The judge also asked the parties to send her a status report within the next week.

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