Ghislaine Maxwell Accusers Can Use Pseudonyms, Judge Rules as Maxwell Maintains Innocence

In the forthcoming trial of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of recruiting teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, her accusers can use pseudonyms or go by just their first names in their testimonies, a judge ruled Monday.

The Associated Press reported that the ruling by U.S. District Judge Allison J. Nathan came after a series of evidentiary hearings in which Maxwell maintains that she has committed no crimes.

Nathan said she allowed the use of pseudonyms due to the sensitivity of the trial's subject matter. The judge explained that this step was made "to protect alleged victims from potential harassment from the media and others," the judge explained. A similar precaution was made during the 2019 trial of NXIVM founder Keith Raniere.

This was not the only move that the judge made that would affect the case moving forward. Accusers will not be referred to as victims or minor victims, a motion proposed by the defense team. Nathan has also set limits to how much Maxwell's defense can imply that their client's investigation was politically motivated. The judge says that these limits allow the trial to "focus on the evidence or lack of evidence and the credibility or lack of credibility of the witnesses."

Maxwell is accused of conspiring the sexual abuse of several teenage girls with Epstein, whose death in 2019 was ruled a suicide. She has previously pleaded not guilty to these charges, and on Monday, she again maintained her innocence, saying aloud, "I have not committed a crime."

The jury is currently being selected for Maxwell's case, with opening statements scheduled to begin on Nov. 29.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ghislaine Maxwell Hearing
In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, center, listens during a court hearing flanked by her attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, left, and Jeffrey Pagliuca, right, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in New York. Her accusers will be allowed to use pseudonyms in their testimonies. AP

Maxwell was brought into a Manhattan courtroom in shackles for Monday's final pretrial hearing. Nathan made a series of evidentiary rulings to define how the highly anticipated trial starting later this month will unfold.

Saying she will renew a bail application that has been rejected multiple times, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim complained that her client was being treated so harshly that Maxwell, shackled at the ankles and waist with her hands handcuffed in front of her, had to get on her hands and knees to climb into the van that brought her to the courthouse.

Then, she was dropped off around 5:30 a.m., more than five hours before the start of the hearing and put alone in a cold holding cell, the lawyer said. When Maxwell fell asleep, she was "poked to be woken up," Sternheim told the judge.

Sternheim has repeatedly complained that Maxwell is awakened by guards at a federal lockup in Brooklyn who shine a light into her cell every 15 minutes to check on her.

Defense lawyers seemed on the verge of a major gain when the judge seemed to be considering ruling out the testimony of one of four women expected to testify about sex abuse on the grounds that she was not underage by law in the jurisdictions where she maintained she was sexually abused by Epstein at age 17. The judge asked lawyers to submit arguments on the issue.

Prosecutors filed arguments last week claiming the defense sought to create a "side show" with extraneous subjects.

The judge largely agreed, ruling that defense lawyers won't be allowed to question witnesses about why law enforcement pursued the case it did, how it chose what subpoenas to issue and why it decided to charge Maxwell and not others.

At the end of a nearly four-hour proceeding, a prosecutor said no plea talks had occurred prior to trial. Defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said there was no reason for them because her client "has committed no crime."

Maxwell echoed her lawyer's words.