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(NEW YORK) — Defense attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell want a new trial following post-verdict comments made by one of the jurors who helped convict Maxwell of sex trafficking crimes, according to a court filing Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, federal prosecutors in New York asked a judge to oversee an inquiry after the juror granted multiple media interviews in the last two days that have raised questions about the integrity of jury selection.
The juror, identified using his first and middle names, Scotty David, told Reuters, the Daily Mail and The Independent that during jury deliberations he shared a personal experience of being sexually abused as a child when some of his fellow jurors questioned the accuracy of victim accounts.
The 35-year-old Manhattan resident said it helped convince skeptical jurors that the women could be believed.
Maxwell, the longtime associate of serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted last week on five of six counts related to the abuse and trafficking of underage girls between 1994 and 2004.
In response to the request, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan late Wednesday set a deadline of Jan. 19 to hear the defense’s motion for a new trial.
The judge, however, declined a request by the defense to pause all other post-trial briefings while the motion for a new trial is being argued.
The juror’s disclosure in media interviews that he was a sexual abuse victim and that he used his story to influence deliberations “presents incontrovertible grounds for a new trial,” Maxwell’s defense team said in its court filing.
The defense called it “an issue of pressing importance.”
Defense attorneys did not immediately respond to a request by ABC News for comment.
“If it wasn’t disclosed, I think it’s a serious problem,” David Greenberger, an attorney with Bailey Duquette P.C. who was not involved in the case, told ABC News. “That’s definitely a basis for a new trial motion or an appeal.”
According to the Reuters report, the juror said he did not recall being asked about sexual abuse, but had he been he would have answered honestly.
“Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, the juror asserted that he ‘flew through’ the prospective juror questionnaire and does not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse, but stated he ‘would have answered honestly,'” the prosecutors’ letter said.
More than 600 prospective jurors filled out questionnaires that asked about personal or family history with sexual abuse. A blank questionnaire posted to the court docket indicated the prospective jurors were asked the following:
“48. Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault? (This includes actual or attempted sexual assault or other unwanted sexual advance, including by a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member.) _ Yes (self) _ Yes (friend or family member) _ No
48a. If yes, without listing names, please explain:
48b. If your answer to 48 was yes, do you believe that this would affect your ability to serve fairly and impartially as a juror in this case? _ Yes _ No
48c. If yes to 48b, please explain”
The responses were given to parties in the case and to the judge, but were not made public.
The personal details that Scotty David provided in media interviews appear to match one of the jurors on the panel of 12. According to court transcripts of jury questioning in November, that juror was not orally questioned about any history of sexual abuse during voir dire. He likely would have been, had he indicated such history on his questionnaire, as others who answered affirmatively were, transcripts of the jury screening showed.
Maxwell’s lawyers had expressed concerns that advance publication of the questionnaire could provide potential jurors time to conform their answers to increase their chances of being seated in the high-profile case.
“Giving jurors the opportunity to view the questionnaire before they come to court to fill it out is like a take-home exam, and they can fill out all the answers and do all the research and decide what answers they want to put on those papers,” said Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Maxwell, on Oct. 21 ahead of trial. “I think there’s an opportunity for people motivated to want to sit on this jury for a variety of reasons.”
Judge Alison Nathan ruled that same day that Maxwell’s generalized concerns that publication of the questionnaire could prejudice the ability for Maxwell to receive a fair trial were insufficient to overcome the public’s right of access to the jury selection process.
“The parties’ sole rationale for sealing the submission is to avoid, at a general level, media coverage that may prejudice the jury selection process,” Nathan said. “But jurors are sworn to give true and complete answers to the questionnaire and voir dire.”
“If a juror is being dishonest, we will smoke that out,” the judge said.
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