Prison guards are shining a torch into Ghislaine Maxwell’s cell every 15 minutes while she sleeps for her own safety, prosecutors have claimed.
Maxwell is currently being held at a New York prison as she awaits a trial on sex trafficking charges.
Prosecutors told a judge on Wednesday that heightened security for Maxwell was necessary because of the nature of the charges she faces, the potential stress she faces in a high-profile criminal case and because of a need to ensure her safety in a cell where she is alone.
Her lawyers say the light flashing is a response to ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s August 2019 suicide as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, 59, has been held without bail since July on charges alleging she recruited teenage girls from 1994 to 2004 for Epstein to sexually abuse and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors based their letter on a consultation with lawyers for the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, where Maxwell is held, after a judge requested an explanation for the flashing of light at the ceiling of Maxwell’s cell every 15 minutes while she sleeps.
Two judges of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals recommended the explanations be sought after recently rejecting an appeal of three rulings rejecting bail for Maxwell.
They also questioned why Maxwell was not allowed to wear a mask that would shield her eyes at night. Her lawyer told the 2nd Circuit that she puts socks or a towel over her eyes to try to sleep.
David Oscar Markus, a lawyer who represents Maxwell before the 2nd Circuit, said in an email late on Wednesday: “This is positively Orwellian. Prosecutors have parroted a nameless MDC official, who has determined that a detainee, who has not been deemed a suicide risk, must be awoken every 15 minutes for her own ‘well-being.’
“What’s next? Bread and water diet to eliminate the risk of diabetes? Please!”
In their letter, prosecutors said Maxwell cannot be issued an eye mask because they are not available for purchase in the jail commissary and are thus considered contraband.
The trial of Maxwell was postponed this week from July until early autumn, though no date has yet been set.
Maxwell’s lawyers have said a postponement of the trial was necessary after prosecutors added sex trafficking charges to the case in late March.
They also cited what they described as onerous jail conditions that slow Maxwell’s ability to prepare for trial.
Maxwell was arrested in July on charges that she recruited three teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 1997.
A superseding indictment in March added a fourth teenage girl to the allegations and extended the years of the alleged conspiracy to 2004.