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US judge vets potential jurors for Ghislaine Maxwell trial

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, center, listens during a court hearing flanked by her attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, left, and Jeffrey Pagliuca, right, November 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, center, listens during a court hearing flanked by her attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, left, and Jeffrey Pagliuca, right, November 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

NEW YORK — Prospective jurors get their first glimpse of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite charged with helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls and women, when a US judge began questioning them individually today.

Wearing a black suit, Maxwell hugged her lawyers when she entered the courtroom and briefly sketched a courtroom artist who was drawing her.

Judge Alison J. Nathan’s questions in Manhattan federal court are aimed at seeing if potential jurors can stay impartial in the sordid case against Maxwell. Nathan sits about 10 feet (3 meters) away from each prospective juror as they are put in the jury box to sit alone during questioning that is to last about 10 to 15 minutes each.

The 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear the case will not be chosen until November 29, when opening statements will begin.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges she groomed underage victims to have unwanted sex with Epstein. She has vehemently denied wrongdoing.

Epstein was arrested in 2019, but the case against him took a shocking turn when the financier and convicted sex offender killed himself while awaiting trial.

After Epstein’s death, prosecutors turned their sights on Maxwell, his ex-girlfriend.

The wealthy, Oxford-educated socialite is the daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht — named the Lady Ghislaine — near the Canary Islands while facing allegations he’d illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds. Ghislaine Maxwell holds US, British and French citizenships and was repeatedly denied bail in the run-up to her trial.

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