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U.S. judge tells lawyers in Ghislaine Maxwell case to watch what they say

·2 min read

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. judge overseeing Ghislaine Maxwell's criminal case on Friday admonished lawyers not to make out-of-court statements that could taint the British socialite's upcoming sex trafficking trial.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan ruled a month after Maxwell lawyer David Markus said the overturning of actor Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction justified ending Maxwell's prosecution https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-people-ghislaine-maxwell-cosby-idUKKCN2E82DN on charges that she groomed and trafficked underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges, and faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Markus' opinion piece in New York's Daily News violated a court rule against lawyers making "extrajudicial statements" that could taint the jury pool.

Markus said he was not subject to the rule because he was not part of Maxwell's defense team. But the judge noted that Markus had worked on Maxwell's appeals from bail denials, and identified himself as her lawyer when communicating with the press and in the opinion piece.

"These facts mean that the public, which includes potential jurors, may perceive Mr. Markus as an authoritative source of information regarding the pending matter and may readily consider his remarks to be accurate and reliable," Nathan wrote.

The judge also said any lawyers in Maxwell's case, including prosecutors, could be disciplined for violating the court rule.

Markus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cosby was freed from prison https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bill-cosbys-sexual-assault-conviction-is-overturned-2021-06-30 after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's 2005 agreement not to charge him with drugging and assaulting a woman named Andrea Constand, which freed him to testify in her civil lawsuit against him, meant he should not have been criminally charged a decade later.

Maxwell's defense team has said her case is similar because she had been immunized under Epstein's 2007 nonprosecution agreement, but saw prosecutors use her testimony from a 2016 civil lawsuit against her in their criminal case. Prosecutors have denied that Epstein's agreement immunized Maxwell.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

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