At Thanksgiving, Americans get together to celebrate what really matters — family, friends, food and fellowship.
Even if Covid-19 is this year putting a brake on many reunions, it must be the hardest time of the year to be behind bars.
And the holiday — which began on Thursday and continues all weekend — will certainly not be easy for one prisoner, Ghislaine Maxwell.
In the ‘glory days’ when she and Jeffrey Epstein glided through their pampered world of private jets, Caribbean islands and amenable royal friends, this U.S. ‘holiday season’ would see the tireless British socialite spend more than a month partying in the billionaire circles of Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, that she and her paedophile chum loved to move in.
And the holiday — which began on Thursday and continues all weekend — will certainly not be easy for one prisoner, Ghislaine Maxwell (pictured)
Today, as she languishes in her tiny solitary cell at the forbidding Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, her mind may be wandering back to Thanksgivings past — perhaps the ones she and Epstein spent at the Palm Beach mansion of their great friends Glenn and Eva Dubin, one of New York’s best-connected couples.
Glenn, a billionaire hedge-fund manager, and Eva, a former Miss Sweden and prominent Manhattan doctor, were old friends of Epstein; Eva was Epstein’s ex-girlfriend.
And they remained so loyal that even after he was jailed in 2008 for soliciting a minor, Eva told Epstein’s probation officer they were happy to have him over and mix with their three children, including a beautiful young daughter.
(Virginia Roberts, accuser of both Epstein and Maxwell, said in a 2015 lawsuit that Glenn Dubin was the first powerful man Epstein sent her to have sex with, a claim Dubin denies.)
Today, as she languishes in her tiny solitary cell (pictured), her mind may be wandering back to Thanksgivings past
The Dubins, like so many of Maxwell’s old friends, have since run for the hills, insisting they knew nothing about the sordid allegations against the toxic pair. Nowadays, Maxwell, 58, has more basic concerns.
According to her friends and lawyers, she can no longer take necessities such as soap, toothbrushes, bras and even sleep for granted as she awaits trial, in a jail that a former warden described as the most troubled facility in the U.S.
The authorities say they are simply trying to keep her alive and ensure she doesn’t copy Epstein, who was able to hang himself in jail as he awaited trial.
Her supporters — fighting for her to be released on bail and who dismiss claims she is a flight risk — insist she is being singled out for especially harsh treatment as the principal surviving villain in one of the most notorious criminal scandals for decades.
There will certainly be no big holiday party for Maxwell, (who wouldn’t have anything to wear, having swapped her designer wardrobe for a regulation T-shirt and leggings when she was moved to the MDC in July.)
Indeed, very little festive human contact at all is likely for the woman who always knew everyone at the party — except for the moment on Thursday when a guard pushed through her cell’s food hatch a tray of traditional Thanksgiving dinner — turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, cranberry — and any other trimmings a cash-strapped prison system can afford.
Very little festive human contact at all is likely for the woman who always knew everyone at the party at the forbidding Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York (pictured)
As a vegan who has allegedly already lost 25lb thanks to the limited menu, she probably found it less enticing than it sounds.
Considering the horrific allegations against her — that she not only found and groomed underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse but also sometimes took part in the assaults — it might strike some as ironic that her camp is now complaining her human rights are being ignored.
However, while Maxwell certainly faces damning prosecution evidence, she has yet to be tried for anything, let alone convicted.
When Epstein committed suicide in his cell last summer 12 days after being taken off suicide watch, Maxwell went to ground as the FBI made clear it was looking for her.
Since her discovery and dramatic arrest at a house deep in the woods of New Hampshire in July, prosecutors successfully argued that Maxwell — who possessed three passports and huge funds — was a serious flight risk and should be denied bail.
Ever since, she and her expensive lawyers have been trying desperately to overturn that decision.
This week, they rumbled into action again after the U.S. Justice Department wrote to tell a judge in her case that Maxwell was now in quarantine after a member of the jail staff tested positive for Covid-19.
In the ‘glory days’ when she and Jeffrey Epstein (pictured together) glided through their pampered world of private jets, Caribbean islands and amenable royal friends
Keen to assure the judge that Maxwell was not being singled out for harsh treatment, the government’s letter laid bare the extent of her now immensely restricted existence — like other affected inmates, she was being allowed out of her cell three days per week for just 30 minutes.
In those periods, she was allowed to shower, make personal phone calls and use the detention centre’s email system.
In addition, she was able to talk to lawyers on the phone for up to three hours day and use a laptop in her cell for 13 hours every day to prepare her defence.
She wouldn’t, however, be able to see any visitors.
The letter also revealed that, when not in quarantine, Maxwell is allowed out of her ‘isolation cell’ from 7am to 8pm every day to use the computer, prepare her defence and receive visits from lawyers, for hours at a time.
It stressed that Maxwell continues to have more time than any other inmate to prepare her defence.
Such assurances drew a prickly response from Maxwell, whose lawyers immediately filed her own letter, filling the gaps in what they insisted was an ‘incomplete picture’ of her confinement conditions.
The litany of complaints included that Maxwell is ‘excessively and invasively searched and is monitored 24 hours per day’.
Her lawyer claimed the inmate was watched by a surveillance camera in her cell — which friends say is just 9ft by 7ft but a former warden says is 10ft by 12ft — while another camera followed her when she was let out.
The most shocking claim was that Maxwell is woken every 15 minutes at night by a torch shone in her face by guards to check she’s still alive.
Maxwell complained that she was threatened with an additional 21-day quarantine unless she agreed to have two nasal swab tests.
She was then ordered to remove her protective mask for an in-mouth inspection ‘further risking exposure to the virus’.
There was more: at first she was quarantined ‘without soap or a toothbrush’, medical and psychological staff who checked on her each day pre-quarantine stopped coming, and an unidentified man entered her cell to take photos during quarantine.
Even the 13 hours a day to prepare her defence was ‘inadequate’, it was claimed, given that case files run to 1.2 million documents already.
Maxwell, said her lawyer, was a ‘non-violent, exemplary pre-trial detainee with no criminal history’ and no history of mental health issues or suicidal tendencies.
As such, she was being ‘over-managed under conditions more restrictive’ than convicted terrorists and killers held at Colorado’s tough Supermax prison, home to Mexican drug cartel king Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman and hate preacher Abu Hamza.
Reflecting Maxwell’s own notorious haughtiness, her lawyer signed off by demanding the MDC’s warden, Heriberto Tellez, be ‘summoned’ to account for her conditions to the court.
The Maxwell legal team is being assisted by veteran British public relations consultant Brian Basham, an old friend of the Maxwell family, who believes Ghislaine is the victim of a ‘lynch mob’.
Mr Basham, who has launched what he calls Operation GGO (‘Get Ghislaine Out’) has claimed Maxwell was forced to wear clothes made of paper and even denied a bra because of fears she might use it to try to hang herself. (He believes she has since recovered her underwear.)
He says Maxwell once went without food for 20 hours — ‘She just wasn’t fed,’ he claimed, and when she complained she’d lost 25lb, her jailers removed her set of scales so she couldn’t weigh herself.
He added that even without being woken by torchlight, there is so much noise from guards shouting outside her cell she gets little sleep.
The jail, which has a long history of neglect and brutality, doesn’t allow inmates any personal possessions, except an ‘approved’ religious item such as a Bible.
Mr Basham says he offered his services for free to the Maxwells out of disgust at the way U.S. authorities treated Ghislaine with ‘vindictive cruelty’.
‘I’m adamant that she shouldn’t be in prison and should be out and able to conduct her defence,’ he told me.
He noted that even the uber-predators Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby were given bail — though he omitted to mention Epstein wasn’t.
Mr Basham insists Maxwell was hiding from the media, not U.S. prosecutors — a claim flatly contradicted by the authorities. An FBI boss compared her to a snake that ‘slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire’ before her arrest.
Mr Basham is in touch with Maxwell’s 70-year-old twin sisters, Christine and Isabel, successful IT entrepreneurs who live in New York and California, and who have been running the family’s efforts on her behalf.
Although family members could visit Maxwell outside of quarantine, he reported that none had yet seen or even talked to her since she was jailed.
‘She has a limited time to talk to anybody,’ he said. ‘The family don’t want to burn up valuable time she has to talk to her lawyers when all they can say is ‘How are you?’, so they haven’t spoken to her. Which is causing them great sadness as they are a very, very close family.
‘But the sisters are working their socks off to help the lawyers put together the evidence.’
He says even the detention centre guards — her only human contact — have stopped talking to Maxwell.
‘An impression has been created of her as an evil woman,’ he said. ‘In prison, child sex offenders always get treated appallingly because people are human.
‘What’s being done to her is absolutely vile.’
Mr Basham is confident the jail conditions won’t affect Maxwell’s mental state. ‘She’s as strong as an ox. She is convinced of her own innocence,’ he said.
Her sisters, who are briefed by the lawyers, tell him Maxwell is ‘upset’ and finds it ‘demeaning and uncomfortable’ but, he added, ‘there’s not a chance of her committing suicide’.
He went on: ‘Her father lost his whole family in Auschwitz. She was brought up to know where [rock] bottom is.
‘And bottom, however unpleasant and vindictive it is, is not a cell in New York.’
As lawyers bicker over her quarantine conditions, Cameron Lindsay, a former warden of the MDC, told the Mail that even without coronavirus, she is effectively living under lockdown.
As the detention centre houses prisoners of all security levels (from fraudsters awaiting trial to convicted killers before sentencing), they are segregated where possible for safety reasons.
The MDC doesn’t even have a canteen because inmates eat in the cells. As an alleged child sex abuser, Maxwell is at risk from other inmates who would consider it a ‘badge of honour’ to injure her, he said.
He believes claims she has a torch shone on her every 15 minutes are exaggerated but conceded guards are instructed to do this on night patrols to ensure they see ‘moving, breathing flesh’.
If she is on suicide watch, he added, a guard or specially trained ‘companion’ is supposed to watch Maxwell directly (through a small window in her cell wall) day and night.
It would be highly unusual but not inconceivable to have a camera in her cell, he added.
‘I do believe they’re taking extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, measures with her,’ said Mr Lindsay.
‘But that is because of the incredible sensitivity of her case in light of what happened with Epstein.
‘I can’t think of a more important witness/defendant that has to be kept alive.’
Mr Lindsay had said when she first went inside that Maxwell’s transition to the bleak MDC would be a ‘crushing experience’ for her. He may have had a point.