U.S. judge tells lawyers in Ghislaine Maxwell case to watch what they say

Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Federal Court in New York
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing where she was denied bail for her role aiding Jeffrey Epstein to recruit and eventually abuse of minor girls, in Manhattan Federal Court, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. July 14, 2020 in this courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg/File Photo

NEW YORK, July 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. judge overseeing Ghislaine Maxwell's criminal case on Friday admonished lawyers not to make out-of-court statements that could taint the British socialite's upcoming sex trafficking trial.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan ruled a month after Maxwell lawyer David Markus said the overturning of actor Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction justified ending Maxwell's prosecution on charges that she groomed and trafficked underage girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges, and faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Markus' opinion piece in New York's Daily News violated a court rule against lawyers making "extrajudicial statements" that could taint the jury pool.

Markus said he was not subject to the rule because he was not part of Maxwell's defense team. But the judge noted that Markus had worked on Maxwell's appeals from bail denials, and identified himself as her lawyer when communicating with the press and in the opinion piece.

"These facts mean that the public, which includes potential jurors, may perceive Mr. Markus as an authoritative source of information regarding the pending matter and may readily consider his remarks to be accurate and reliable," Nathan wrote.

The judge also said any lawyers in Maxwell's case, including prosecutors, could be disciplined for violating the court rule.

Markus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cosby was freed from prison after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's 2005 agreement not to charge him with drugging and assaulting a woman named Andrea Constand, which freed him to testify in her civil lawsuit against him, meant he should not have been criminally charged a decade later. read more

Maxwell's defense team has said her case is similar because she had been immunized under Epstein's 2007 nonprosecution agreement, but saw prosecutors use her testimony from a 2016 civil lawsuit against her in their criminal case. Prosecutors have denied that Epstein's agreement immunized Maxwell.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham

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