Meet the lawyers trying to free Ghislaine Maxwell

Ghislaine MaxwellThe trial’s start with a gasp. “Ever since Eve tempted Adam with an apple, women have been blamed for the bad deeds of men, and women are often more demonized and punished than men.” Bobbi Sternheim, one of Maxwell’s attorneys, said to begin her opening remarks. To the reporters gathered in the viewing room inside Thurgood Marshall federal court in Lower Manhattan, the biblical comparison was like an epic trolling. But it turned out to be the opening step in a see-through strategy to position Maxwell as a scapegoat of the feminist patriarchy. It was certainly no coincidence that Maxwell wore a white sweater, heavy with the symbol of grief, on the first day of the trial.

Maxwell’s legal team consists of four formidable men counsel, two of which are women: attorneys based in Sternheim and Denver Laura Menninger. Instead of attacking the credibility of Maxwell’s accusers, they tried to focus more on the men in the case. “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are because of the things Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein, she is not like Jeffrey Epstein, and she is not like any other man, men powerful men, tycoons, media giants abusing women,” Sternheim told the jury. Sternheim and Menninger have also pursued personal injury attorneys who, Sternheim said, manipulated their female clients to testify against Maxwell to win a “big jackpot.” Sternheim and Menninger say the Epstein Victims Compensation Fund pays whistleblowers more if they cooperate with the government investigation into Maxwell. Sternheim told the jury that Maxwell’s accusers received settlements worth millions of dollars.

Menninger had a methodical and reserved presence during the cross-examination. During the first week of the six-week trial, she used scalpel questions to cut losses in the hateful account of an anonymous victim known only as Jane, who accused her of was abused by Epstein and Maxwell beginning in 1994 when she was 14 years old. Jane repeated “I don’t remember” more than 20 times in a 10-minute question from Menninger.

Meanwhile, Sternheim appears as a blunt, outspoken New Yorker with an upturned collar and thick plastic-rimmed glasses. In crime defense circles, Sternheim is seen as a groundbreaking feminist. “Bobbi is one of my heroes,” the defense said Cheryl Meyers Buth, who defended an alleged drug dealer with Sternheim in a 2016 federal murder trial (Sternheim successfully persuaded the judge to abolish the death penalty, Meyers Buth said.) “Not many women do criminal defense work. She is a legend. ”

Sternheim, 68, has represented many high-profile defendants charged with heinous crimes. In 2015, Ms guard al-Qaida member Khalid al-Fawwaz, who was accused of participating in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. In 2016, Ms represent Minh Quang Pham, a member of al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, who was accused plot to bomb Heathrow Airport in London. Sternheim lost both cases (al-Fawwaz was sentenced to life in prison; Pham was sentenced to 40 years). But Meyers Buth says that’s not a reflection of Sternheim’s skills. “We have a saying in our business. Lawyers who talk about winning records don’t try tough cases. Bobbi takes on the most difficult cases. She was not afraid. “

Menninger represented Maxwell in 2015 in a defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein’s accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre (The case is settled in 2017). Like Sternheim, she wasn’t afraid to take on difficult or uncommon cases. In 2016, she defended Colorado goalkeeper Avalanche Semyon Varlamov in a lawsuit filed by an ex-girlfriend alleging that Varlamov brutally beat her after a 2013 Halloween party, Menninger was part of a defense team that successfully stopped a series of attacks. graphic images the wound that his ex-girlfriend allegedly caused was inflicted by Varlamov. The jury sided with Varlamov and demanded that his ex-girlfriend pay $126,000 in damages.

It is too early to speculate on the outcome of the Maxwell case. Only one in four accusers took a stand. Next week will likely feature more gruesome testimonies by Maxwell’s alleged victims. After witnessing Sternheim and Menninger in action, prosecutors can make sure their witnesses are ready.

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