Ghislaine Maxwell loses bid to dismiss sex trafficking indictment, despite Cosby claim

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British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

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NEW YORK, Aug 13 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday rejected Ghislaine Maxwell's bid to dismiss her sex-trafficking indictment, which the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein claimed was justified by the recent overturning of Bill Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan said she was not bound by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's June 30 decision to free Cosby, and that Maxwell had not been promised she would not be prosecuted, as the Pennsylvania court said Cosby had.

Nathan also rejected Maxwell's arguments that prosecutors waited too long to charge her with sex trafficking between 2001 and 2004, saying Congress's 2006 elimination of the statute of limitations applied retroactively.

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Lawyers for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 59-year-old British socialite has pleaded not guilty to the eight-count indictment, which concerns her alleged efforts to find and groom underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse between 1994 and 2004.

Maxwell is being held in a Brooklyn jail, and could face 80 years in prison if convicted.

Her trial could begin in November. Epstein, a financier, killed himself in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Cosby was freed from prison after Pennsylvania's highest court said a 2005 agreement not to charge him with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand meant he should not have been criminally charged a decade later.

The agreement freed Cosby to testify in Constand's subsequent civil lawsuit against him, which ended in a $3.36 million settlement.

Lawyers for Maxwell said her case was similar because she had been immunized under Epstein's 2007 nonprosecution agreement (NPA) with federal prosecutors in Florida, in exchange for pleading guilty to Florida state prostitution charges.

Maxwell had testified in a since-settled $50 million civil lawsuit against her by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, and the lawyers said it was unfair for prosecutors to use that testimony to build their criminal case.

But Nathan said the cases weren't the same, and adhered to her April ruling that Epstein's agreement did not bind the Manhattan prosecutors or cover accused co-conspirators.

Cosby's case "focused on whether prosecutors were required to honor a promise that the court found to be clear in the absence of a formal plea agreement," Nathan wrote.

"Even if this Court agreed with the analysis in [Cosby's case], that opinion sheds no light on the proper interpretation of the NPA in this case," she added.

Cosby was freed after serving more than two years of a possible 10-year sentence.

Giuffre on Monday filed a separate civil lawsuit against Britain's Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexually assaulting her two decades ago, when she was 17. The prince has previously denied her accusations of sexual abuse.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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