By Barnini Chakraborty, Senior Investigations Reporter
Legal experts say the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell on sex trafficking charges could be tossed following revelations that a juror admitted to multiple media outlets that he used his personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse to sway fellow jurors.
Scotty David, 35, told the Daily Mail and the Independent that he detailed his own experience when other jurors questioned the accuracy of the memory of two of Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers during deliberations.
“When I shared that, they were able to sort of come around on, they were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse,” he said.
But David’s admission, as well as his omission of his past during jury selection, has put Maxwell’s conviction in jeopardy.
“It’s a prosecutor’s worst nightmare,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.
Rahmani, the president of Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers, said a mistrial is likely because David’s comments bring up several big problems: perjury and prejudice, lying under oath, and having a preconceived opinion that swayed the jury.
“It’s so incredibly rare that you have a juror who sets forth the prejudice argument,” he said. “As a prosecutor, you absolutely hate it when the jurors talk to the media after a guilty verdict because they can always say something improper that can cause problems. But this juror, not only did he say something improper, he established prejudice.”
Rahmani added that the weight of a new trial could be devastating for Maxwell and Epstein’s accusers.
“It’s hard for these victims to get on the stand and be victimized again and tell their story to the public, and it’s all going to come crashing down because one juror lied on his questionnaire,” Rahmani said.
David claimed he “flew through” the initial questionnaire given to jurors that specifically asked, “Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?”
The Manhattan resident said he would have answered honestly about his own history of childhood sexual abuse had he been asked during follow-up questioning.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted last week on five of six criminal counts that she helped recruit and groom young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein and his friends between 1994 and 2004. If her conviction is upheld, she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
The prosecutors’ case against the British socialite relied heavily on the testimony of four accusers: Jane, Kate, Carolyn, and Annie Farmer. David said jurors doubted the credibility of Jane and Carolyn but that he helped change their minds.
Maxwell’s lawyers have already sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan that said, “based on undisputed, publicly available information, the Court can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing.”
For their part, prosecutors also acknowledged that David’s comments “merit attention by the Court.”
Nathan said late Wednesday that the defense should make a formal request for a mistrial by Jan. 19 and gave prosecutors until Feb. 2 to reply.
The Daily Mail reported that the U.S. attorney general has requested an investigation into David’s comments that his personal story swayed jurors on the fence.
The developments do not bode well for prosecutors, Rahmani said.
“Immediately, prosecutors knew there was a problem, and then Judge Alison Nathan appointed an attorney for the juror, and that means she believes he may have committed a crime, perjury,” he said.
The New York Times reported that a second juror, who requested anonymity, told the outlet that they, too, had shared a personal story about sexual abuse during deliberations and that it also helped shape the jury’s decision to convict Maxwell.
If a mistrial is granted, it could help prosecutors down the line. They will be familiar with the defense’s strategy and will likely be able to prepare the witnesses to better handle tough questions from Maxwell’s lawyers, Rahmani said.
“The government will 100% retry the case,” he added. “They have to. I don’t expect her to be acquitted under any circumstances.”
Lisa Bloom, an attorney for eight of Epstein’s accusers, also weighed in on the possibility of a mistrial, calling it a “punch in the gut” for victims and adding that it was “just awful” that Maxwell may have her conviction overturned.
“Ghislaine Maxwell may get a new trial. Really. Because another human was sexually abused,” she tweeted Wednesday night.