The judge in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged former madam of the late billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, dropped a bomb on Tuesday when she revealed her fears that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could pose a threat to the case.
CNN reported that Judge Alison Nathan told the jury that they will be staying an hour later until 6pm each day as deliberations continue.
“We are very simply at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago and we now face a high and escalating risk that jurors and/or trial participants may need to quarantine, thus disrupting trial (and) putting at risk our ability to complete this trial,” Judge Nathan said. “Accordingly, extending deliberations by an hour gives the jury more time each day to continue to engage in its thoughtful deliberations.”
Judge Nathan went on to say that she will revisit the issue later in the day if necessary, indicating that further scheduling changes could come if the jury fails to reach a verdict soon.
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“In light of the variant, my concern about interruption of trial given the increasing daily risk of exposure to either a juror or a trial participant requiring quarantine, it is time to think to have the jurors make plans to deliberate until a verdict is reached,” Nathan said.
Maxwell, 60, has plead not guilty to six federal counts: sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. If convicted on all charges, the former British socialite is facing 70 years in prison.
Maxwell has been accused of grooming young girls for sex with Epstein, and sometimes participating in the abuse herself. Epstein allegedly committed suicide in prison back in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex charges of his own.
Defense attorney Laura Menninger tried to distance Maxwell from Epstein in her closing arguments, claiming that he manipulated her just like he did his victims. She also suggested that prosecutors are using Maxwell as a scapegoat for Epstein’s crime, since they can’t put him on trial, given his untimely death.
“She’s being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein, and maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life – but it was not a crime,” Menninger told the jury.
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