Citing COVID, judge urges Maxwell jury to work longer | Health

By TOM HAYS and LARRY NEUMEISTER – Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) – The judge presiding over the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell cited an ‘astronomical spike’ in the number of coronavirus cases in New York as she explained on Tuesday why she urged jurors to work longer.

Judge Alison J. Nathan said aloud what had largely ignored in his previous requests for the jury to work an extra day last week and longer hours this week, as it decides whether Maxwell recruited and prepared teenage girls to be sexually assaulted by Jeffrey Epstein. The jury refused to work an extra day last week.

“We now face a high and growing risk that jurors and trial participants may need to quarantine,” Nathan told lawyers. “We’re just in a different place with regard to the pandemic than a week ago. “

On Monday evening, the judge told jurors they should expect to deliberate until at least 6 p.m. starting Tuesday rather than stopping at 5 p.m., as they had done earlier.

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Fueled by the omicron variant, coronavirus cases in the city have gone from an average of around 3,400 per day in the week that ended December 12 to 22,000 in the week that ended. ended Sunday.

Laura Menninger, a defense attorney, told Nathan on Monday that any suggestion that the jury stay later “is starting to sound like urging them to hurry.”

“We would object to trying to urge them to stay later if they do not ask to do so and express no difficulty in continuing the deliberations they are now undertaking,” Menninger said.

Menninger noted that the jury continued to ask for transcripts of trial testimony and other documents indicating they were working diligently.

Tuesday marked the fourth full day of deliberations as jurors decide Maxwell’s fate on six counts, alleging she played a crucial role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls between 1994 and 2004.

Defense attorneys said Maxwell, 60, was being used as a scapegoat by prosecutors after the US government was embarrassed by Epstein’s suicide in a Manhattan federal prison in August 2019 while awaiting a trial for sex trafficking.

Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 and remained in jail after Nathan repeatedly rejected bail attempts, including a $ 28.5 million package with armed guards around the clock to ensure that she wasn’t running away.

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