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Ghislaine Maxwell placed on suicide watch before sentencing

Ghislaine Maxwell attends the ETM Children's Benefit Gala in New York on May 6, 2014. (Rob Kim/Getty Images/TNS)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite convicted of sex trafficking with former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, has been put on suicide watch at the jail in Brooklyn where she’s been since her July 2020 arrest, her lawyer said Saturday.

Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Maxwell, said in a letter to the judge slated to sentence the socialite on June 28 that she was removed on Friday from the general population of inmates at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center and placed in solitary confinement. Sternheim said that Maxwell isn’t allowed any pen or paper and was placed on the watch “without justification,” and warned that she may seek a postponement of her sentencing date.

“If Ms. Maxwell remains on suicide watch, is prohibited from reviewing legal materials prior to sentencing, becomes sleep deprived, and is denied sufficient time to meet with and confer with counsel, we will be formally moving on Monday for an adjournment,” Sternheim said in a letter late Saturday to U.S. Circuit Judge Alison Nathan, who’s presiding over the case.

While Maxwell, 60, was given a “suicide smock,” Sternheim said that a psychologist met with the socialite on Saturday and concluded that she “is not suicidal.”

Maxwell was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan in December on five counts, including sex trafficking of a minor. It was a verdict that was hailed as long-delayed justice for victims of Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell a month after his arrest in what authorities said was a suicide.

Prosecutors said in a letter Sunday that Maxwell was separated from other prisoners after she sent an email to the Bureau of Prisons Inspector General’s office “claiming to be in fear for her safety.” They said she was removed from the general population in order for her claim to be investigated, and that her sentencing shouldn’t be postponed because she still has access to her lawyers and legal papers and can prepare.

Ordinarily, an inmate making such claims would be put in a solitary cell within the Special Housing Unit, or SHU, but jail officials placed Maxwell on suicide watch due to concern that she was at “heightened risk of self-harm” given her upcoming sentencing and sex offender status, prosecutors wrote.

“As a result, they are not comfortable placing the defendant in the SHU, but they also need to remove the defendant from general population to investigate the threat she reported.”

Prosecutors argue Maxwell deserves a term of as many as 55 years behind bars for a sex trafficking scheme involving seven victims. She has asked for a prison sentence of less than six years, arguing she’s had to endure unduly harsh conditions in jail.

The case is US v Maxwell, 20-CR-330, US District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


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