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Judge In Ghislane Maxwell Trial Worries About COVID-19 Spread

The spread of the Omicron variant could put the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell in jeopardy, the judge said on Tuesday. As the jury completed its fourth full day of deliberations in Manhattan federal court, Judge Alison Nathan, said she feared jurors and trial participants might become infected and forced to quarantine, raising the specter of a mistrial. “We are, very simply, at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago,” Nathan said. She extended the jury’s hours to 6 p.m. and plans to have jurors continue deliberations through the holiday weekend until they reach a verdict. The jury sent the judge a note, saying, “Our deliberations are moving along and we are making progress.” The trial of Maxwell, who has been charged with recruiting and grooming underage girls for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, included three weeks of testimony by two dozen government witnesses and nine defense witnesses. The jury completed four full days of deliberations by the end of Tuesday. The issue of how forcefully a jury should be encouraged to reach a verdict is a delicate matter. Defense lawyers argue that rushing a jury could pressure it to return a guilty verdict, while prosecutors do not want to provide the defense an issue on which to base an appeal. Jurors have sent the judge a series of notes, including one on Monday that she found "confusing." She referred jurors to an 80-page set of instructions.

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