Ghislaine Maxwell says Bill Cosby's freedom justifies dropping sex trafficking charges

A July 2020 photo shows US officials announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell, pictured here (left) with late financier Jeffrey Epstein. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK(REUTERS) - Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell said the overturning of Bill Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction justifies throwing out sex trafficking and other charges stemming from her relationship with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Cosby, 83, was released from prison on Wednesday after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court said a prosecutor's 2005 agreement not to charge him with drugging and assaulting Temple University employee Andrea Constand meant the actor and comedian should not have been charged a decade later.

In a Friday letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, Maxwell's lawyers said the British socialite's case was similar to Cosby's because she had been immunised under Epstein's 2007 nonprosecution agreement.

They said this supported dismissing four charges from Maxwell's eight-count indictment, which covers alleged crimes from 1994 and 2004 and could subject her to 80 years in prison.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty.

"As in Cosby, the government is trying to renege on its agreement and prosecute Ms Maxwell over 25 years later for the exact same offences for which she was granted immunity," Maxwell's lawyers said.

"This is not consistent with principles of fundamental fairness."

The office of US Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.

Epstein struck his agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida in exchange for pleading guilty to state prostitution charges.

Nathan ruled in April that the agreement did not bind prosecutors in Manhattan. She also rejected Maxwell's claim that it covered accused co-conspirators like herself.

The 2005 decision not to charge Cosby cleared the way for his testimony in a civil lawsuit by Constand, which ended in a US$3.36 million settlement.

Pennsylvania prosecutors later used incriminating testimony Cosby gave to build a new criminal case. The Pennsylvania court said they could not, and set Cosby free after he had served more than two years of a possible 10-year sentence.

On Wednesday, one of Maxwell's lawyers, David Markus, argued in an opinion piece in New York's Daily News that Cosby's release justified ending Maxwell's prosecution.

He said it was unfair for prosecutors to use Maxwell's testimony in 2016 from a civil lawsuit against her by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre to build their case, and that a jury should reject their "flimsy and stale charges."

On Thursday, prosecutors said Markus' opinion violated a court rule against lawyers making "extrajudicial statements" that could taint the jury pool, and asked Nathan to order him to comply.

Lawyers for Maxwell have also accused prosecutors of using unfair tactics to sway potential jurors.

Maxwell's trial could begin in November.

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