Home Health Ghislaine Maxwell Juror Says He ‘Didn’t Lie’ to Get on Jury – The New York Times

Ghislaine Maxwell Juror Says He ‘Didn’t Lie’ to Get on Jury – The New York Times

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The man’s statements to the news media after Ms. Maxwell’s conviction have clouded the guilty verdict in the case.
Benjamin Weiser and
A juror whose failure to disclose that he was sexually abused as a child has clouded Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction testified on Tuesday that he had made an “honest mistake” and had withheld the information inadvertently during the jury selection process.
The juror, a man identified as Juror 50, told a federal judge in Manhattan that he had read quickly through a pretrial screening questionnaire that asked potential jurors whether they had ever been sexually abused and had checked a box indicating “no” mistakenly.
“This was one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life,” the man told the judge, Alison J. Nathan, during a tense, hourlong hearing in a packed courtroom. “I didn’t lie in order to get on this jury.”
If he could “go back and change everything” and take the time “to read this appropriately, I would in a heartbeat,” he said.
Ms. Maxwell, 60, the former companion of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted on Dec. 29 of sex-trafficking and four other counts. During her three-week trial, the jury heard testimony about how Ms. Maxwell had helped Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls for at least a decade. The jury deliberated for about another week.
Judge Nathan ordered the unusual hearing on Tuesday was ordered after Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers, citing Juror 50’s post-trial interviews with several news outlets, asked the judge to throw out the verdict and grant Ms. Maxwell a new trial.
The judge did not say when she would rule on the request. She gave Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers and the government until March 15 to file written arguments based on the hearing.
In the news media interviews, Juror 50 revealed that during deliberations, he had told other jurors that was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and that he did not report that abuse for years.
He said in one interview, with DailyMail.com, that the jury room “went silent” as he told his story, and that he had helped other jurors understand things from a victim’s point of view.
The flurry of media appearances prompted lawyers on both sides to revisit Juror 50’s jury-selection questionnaire; his negative response to the question about past abuse led Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers to seek a new trial.
Juror 50, her lawyers argued, “did not truthfully respond to perhaps the most important question put to potential jurors about their personal experiences — a question that pertained directly to the core allegations against Ms. Maxwell: whether they had been a victim of sexual assault or abuse.”
“Had Juror No. 50 told the truth,” the lawyers wrote, “he would have been challenged, and excluded, for cause.”
In trying to assess the impact of disclosures inside a jury room, judges are barred from questioning jurors about what was said during deliberations.
But a judge can examine statements jurors made during the selection phase. In an opinion last month, Judge Nathan wrote that after the trial, Juror 50 “made several direct, unambiguous statements to multiple media outlets about his own experience that do not pertain to jury deliberations and that cast doubt on the accuracy of his responses” in jury selection.
The statements were “clear, strong, substantial and incontrovertible evidence” that an impropriety had occurred — “namely, a false statement during jury selection,” the judge wrote.
Nearly all of the hearing on Tuesday consisted of Judge Nathan questioning the juror while he sat on the witness stand scarcely six feet to her left. Juror 50, who identified himself during jury selection as a Manhattan resident in his mid-30s, wore a blue button-down shirt under a dark sweater.
Ms. Maxwell, in navy prison scrubs, sat with her lawyers across the courtroom. Todd A. Spodek, a lawyer for the juror, sat in the jury box.
Mr. Spodek had told Judge Nathan in a court filing that Juror 50 planned to “invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination at the hearing.” The office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, then asked the judge for an order compelling the juror to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
At the start of the hearing, Judge Nathan asked Juror 50 if he had answered the question about sexual abuse accurately, and he said no. She asked him to describe the nature of the abuse — he said a former stepbrother and his friend had abused him on multiple occasions when he was 9 and 10 years old. He told his mother about it when he was in high school, and she called the police, he said, but no charges were brought.
Juror 50 said repeatedly said he did not think about the abuse much anymore.
“It doesn’t define me,” he said. “It’s an experience that I lived through.” Asked why he had also failed to specify, in a separate section of the questionnaire, that he had been the victim of a crime, he said, “I do not feel that I am a victim of a crime.”
He said he first realized that he had answered the questions inaccurately during the interviews with reporters after the trial.
He made it clear that given the large number of people he saw filling out questionnaires on the day he was called in, he never thought he would be chosen for the trial.
When Judge Nathan asked whether he had tailored his answers to get onto the jury, he said no.
Asked if he had hoped to be selected, he replied: “I did not hope to be on this jury. But again, like if you’re going to serve jury duty, it might as well as be something that’s interesting. But I did not set out in order to get on this jury.”
“If I lied deliberately, I wouldn’t have told a soul,” he said, apologizing for wasting the court’s time and resources. “It was an honest mistake.”
Asked if he harbored any bias toward Ms. Maxwell, Juror 50 said no. He said he had told his fellow jurors — and, later, reporters — about the abuse because “seeing the victims be brave enough to give their story, I felt like if they can do it, then so can I.”
But he said his own experience of being abused had not affected his ability to assess the credibility of witnesses who testified at the trial.
Judge Nathan asked whether he had been concerned with following her instructions during jury selection. “Absolutely not,” he said, later clarifying that he had been “super distracted.”
He had just been through a breakup, he said, and there was a lot of talking and commotion as he was filling out the questionnaire next to a table where many other potential jurors were dropping off their completed copies.
“I felt rushed,” he said.
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