Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer tries to prevent victims from participating in sentencing speeches

Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer tries to prevent victims from participating in sentencing speeches

  • Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer is trying to stop two alleged victims from speaking at her June 28 sentencing.
  • Bobbi Sternheim argues that Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein do not qualify as victims in the case.
  • Sternheim said that Ransome and Stein were adults when they were allegedly victimized and that Ransome’s charges were out of court.

One of Ghislaine Maxwell’s attorneys is trying to stop two alleged victims from giving impact statements at the convicted sex trafficker’s June 28 sentencing.

Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein were not among the three official victims who testified at Maxwell’s trial late last year, but sentencing hearings are often opened up to allow a larger group of alleged victims to speak and help the judge decide. determine the sentence.

Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison after a jury convicted her on charges of conspiracy and child sex trafficking. Her legal team has long argued that she is being scapegoated for the crimes of her ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison before he could be brought to justice.

In a court filing Tuesday, an attorney representing Ransome and Stein, Robert Lewis, requested that his clients be allowed to speak at Maxwell’s sentencing as “victims of sex trafficking perpetrated by Jeffrey Epstein” and Maxwell.

But Bobbi Sternheim, one of Maxwell’s attorneys, said neither Ransome nor Stein are qualified to speak as victims in the case because of the timing of their allegations and their ages at the time.

trial of gislaine maxwell

Ghislaine Maxwell listens as defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim gives her opening statement at the start of Maxwell’s trial on November 29, 2021.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Two victims were adults when they met Maxwell

In response to Lewis’ submission, Sternheim explained that Maxwell was specifically tried for child sex trafficking between 1997 and 2004. Ransome does not qualify as a victim in this case because her allegations against Epstein and Maxwell focus on the years 2006-2007. her when she was an adult.

Ransome has said in previous interviews that she was recruited into Epstein’s sex trafficking ring when she was 22 years old. She told CBS News in an interview in December that Epstein raped her and threatened to kill her and her family if he ever left him. She said that Maxwell was the organizer of the ring.

“She orchestrated the whole thing,” Ransome told CBS.

As for Stein, Sternheim also doesn’t think she qualifies as a victim, as Stein previously said she was 21 when she met Maxwell in 1994.

Stein told the Miami Herald in December that she met Maxwell when she was a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology and working for a “Fifth Avenue retailer.” She said that Maxwell came to her store one day and Stein helped her shop. When she later dropped off Maxwell’s purchases at a hotel, she says Maxwell introduced her to Epstein and “that night was the first time I was assaulted.”

Victims who can testify at sentencing are defined in the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, and Sternheim says that Ransome and Stein do not meet the definition of a victim under the CVRA.

Sternheim explains that the CVRA describes a “crime victim” as “a person directly and immediately harmed as a result of the commission of a federal crime or a crime in the District of Columbia.” She said “direct and proximate harm” is not an “unlimited” definition and “only covers victims of the conduct underlying the conviction crimes.”

“While it is appropriate for victims to be present pursuant to the CVRA, Ms. Maxwell’s sentencing proceedings should not be an open forum for an alleged victim to be heard. Neither Mrs. Ransome nor Mrs. Stein are part of the record in this case. We are concerned about the impact that statements from alleged victims who were not part of the trial or whose names are not part of the record and who do not otherwise qualify as ‘victims of crime’ under the CVRA will have on the Court’s sentencing.” Sternheim added.

Judge Alison J. Nathan has not yet ruled on whether Ransome and Stein will be able to speak at sentencing next week. In response to the two filings, she recommended that any victim who wishes to speak at sentencing contact the US Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit by noon on June 22.

Lewis told Insider on Wednesday that he intends to file documents with that office explaining why his clients should be allowed to speak at sentencing. He said he believes the definition of a victim in this case is broad and that his clients should have a chance to speak, especially since the victims were largely left out of the process when Epstein reached a non-prosecution agreement in 2008, when his conduct with minors came under scrutiny for the first time.

“In short, the law broadly defines a ‘victim’ for sentencing purposes and the court has broad discretion to allow anyone with an interest in the matter to speak at sentencing,” Lewis said. “Given the history of the ‘Epstein’ criminal trial here … we believe it is critical that victims have an opportunity to speak at this sentencing.”

Victims also struggled to get seats for the trial.

Both Ransome and Stein also complained about not having guaranteed seats at Maxwell’s trial in December.

Lewis told the Miami Herald that he was told by the court’s victim/witness coordinator before the trial that Ransome did not qualify as a victim in the case and would not get a priority seat in the courtroom. Meanwhile, Stein traveled two hours roundtrip from her Pennsylvania home nearly every day of the trial to stand in the cold outside the courthouse to get a seat, missing the cut on at least one occasion, as detailed. the Miami. Herald.

In an interview with CBS News in December, Ransome said it was important for her to attend the trial to support the other victims who helped bring Maxwell to justice.

“These brave women gave me my day in court. That’s why it was so important to me to be there in New York during the trial,” Ransome said.

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