British socialite and publishing heiress Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges she conspired with billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan via video conference because of the coronavirus crisis, Ms. Maxwell said, “not guilty” when asked to enter a plea.
Judge Nathan scheduled a criminal trial for Ms. Maxwell to begin July 12, 2021, and ordered her held without bond. The trial is expected to take three weeks, Judge Nathan said.
She deemed her a “substantial flight risk” due to her vast wealth and international connections.
Prosecutors warned that she would use her three passports and $20 million bank account to flee the country.
Ms. Maxwell is accused of grooming and recruiting girls for Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking empire. She also participated in some of the sex abuse, according to court filings.
She faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Annie Farmer, one of three women who have accused Ms. Maxwell of procuring girls, asked the judge to deny the bail request, saying “the danger Maxwell posed must be taken seriously.”
“She was a serial predator when she met and groomed me and countless other women,” Ms. Farmer told the court, adding that she first met Ms. Maxwell when she was 16 years old.
“Those that survived implore this court that she be detained pending trial,” she continued.
Another woman, identified only as Jane Doe, submitted a statement read to the court by prosecutor Allison Moe.
“Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did,” the statement said.
Ms. Moe told the judge that while the Epstein investigation remains ongoing, she does not anticipate bringing other charges against Ms. Maxwell.
In a court filing Monday, prosecutors said that a search of a 156-acre New Hampshire estate where Ms. Maxwell was hiding out from law enforcement uncovered a cellphone wrapped in tin foil to evade detection.
Ms. Maxwell also hired former British military members to guard the New Hampshire property, according to the court filing.
Attorneys for Ms. Maxwell asked the judge to release her on a $5 million bond, arguing that she is not a flight risk.
Defense attorneys said the bond would have been secured by six unidentified co-signers as well as a property in Britain worth $3.75 million.
Ms. Maxwell’s defense team said in a court filing last week that she “vigorously” denies the charge and “intends to fight them.”
Ms. Maxwell’s arrest earlier this month came nearly a year to the day Epstein — her former boyfriend — was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges. Epstein killed himself weeks later while locked in a Manhattan federal detention center.
Epstein was a former friend of Presidents Clinton and Trump and had ties to several high-profile figures in politics and pop culture. The Justice Department said it is seeking to speak with one of those figures, Prince Andrew, as part of its Epstein investigation.