COURTHOUSE, Dec 4 -- It was Day 5 of the Maxwell trial
but Day 1 of Maximum
Maxwell, at least for Kurt
Wheelock. As he got out of the subway
and into Foley Square the media melee was
lighter in front of 40 Foley.
At the side door on Pearl Street a
dozen photographers still waited, for the
now ubiquitous shot of Ghislaine's lawyers
in their masks. It was the biggest trial of
their lives and some were blowing it.
for one, was like a boxer with good footwork
but no punch. He would dance around the
witness, asking what seemed like preliminary
questions like, Do you remember testifying
to such-and-such on direct?
But when he got the Yes, there seemed
to be plan, no impeachment, no gotcha
moment. People no longer watched Perry Mason
much, except on free Pluto TV and maybe
overseas. But this was no Perry Mason.
there were endless arguments about
photographs of sex toys and a godchild, with
the jury waiting in their room outside of
318, eating snacks. At least that's how one
imagined them, since Judge Nathan at the
mid-morning and mid-afternoon break said,
"The snack are here." Someone asked Kurt
online if the judge was heavyset. While not
a rhetorical question since there were no
camera, it still seemed mean spirited. Kurt
hastened to reply that the snacks were not
for the judge but for the jury. He'd seen
the judge out of the courtroom and there was
more to say on that: #MaximumMaxwell.
actual trial day started with house manager
Juan Alessi getting grilled about having
stolen money from Epstein, in 100 dollar
bills from a white envelope in his study. He
came in through the study window, in a tweak
to the Beatles song. But they just wouldn't
leave it alone. Hadn't he told the Palm
Beach police back then that he'd also wanted
to take a gun? That the money was for
immigration papers for his girlfriend?
not my girlfriend!" Alessi said. But that
seemed to admit too much.
made Kurt think of the rapper Tekashi 69's
driver, who first appeared in that trial as
part of the video of Harv Ellison
car-jacking 69. Later it turned out he had
turned into a cooperator, having been
threatened by the US Attorney's Office with
deportation. Many in the gallery, and those
Kurt was tweeting to online in his first
hype trial here, seemed to sympathize with
the driver. What would you have done in his
washing the juices off the sex toys, like
Alessi? Driving Ghislaine around Palm Beach
looking for fresh meat for Jeffrey? It was
not, as they say, relatable. And so while
Alessi's direct testimony had scored points,
it was possible the lead was entirely given
back on the cross.
the lunch break - more than snacks - Kurt
ran the half block to the US Attorney's
office. They were doing a press conference
but not about Maximum Maxwell. No, new US
Attorney Damian Williams was announcing a
civil rights investigation of the police
department not of New York City, as some
would have wanted, but suburban Mount
Vernon. Kurt had reported on a few Mount
Vernon case, a drug gang that shot a kid, a
gypsy cab driver who'd joined Uber and
gotten jacked like 69 only with less
coverage, and it seemed plausible that the
cops there beat suspects up and planted
evidence on them.
Damian Williams was portraying it only as a
heroic move by New Justice under Merrick
Garland and himself. Perhaps. But what about
the defendants his SDNY office, and DOJ more
broadly, had prosecuted and incarcerated
with tainted evidence from corrupt local
the Q&A came Kurt stuck up his hand.
This was what he missed most about the UN,
not just the free booze and food of the
diplomatic parties, but the ability to shout
out questions at the Security Council
stakeout and, as if by right, in the
briefing room (until they'd stopped calling
on him and made him shout them, the
beginning of the end).
big media were serviced and then there was
only Kurt. And so he was called on and asked
his question: would any convictions be
re-opened, or prosecutions paused, during
the pendency of the investigation?
Williams looked surprised by the question,
though it could be that Kurt was only
fooling himself. "That's a question for
another day," Damian Williams said.
no day like today, Kurt thought. On his way
back to 40 Foley he ran into Federal
Defender William Kandisky, who he knew from
and Roadkill case, and told him about
the Mount Vernon announcement. Kankinsky
said they'd check the cases of their Mount
Vernon cases and maybe try to re-open
them,less certainly tell Kurt about it if he
didn't find the motions to re-open on PACER.
now back on PACER in the press room, Kurt
found more Mount Vernon cases to supplement
the ones he'd written about. When he had
time, he vowed, after #MaximumMaxwell,
he'd look up and into cases in the other
three cities the Assistant Attorney General
had mentioned, all bigger than Mount Vernon:
Phoenix, Louisville and Minneapolis. Perhaps
there would be a #MaximumMinneapolis.
afternoon's witnesses where Palm Beach
police, one current and one retired, about
the search of Epstein's home. But AUSA
Maurene Comey insisted on making all the
photos they took during the search be sealed
exhibits. Kurt spoke up, even to a colleague
at the break: how was the public supposed to
have any confidence in the jury's verdict,
either way it went, if they didn't know what
the jury had heard and seen?
reader wrote in and asked Kurt why it was he
dared think that Ghislaine might be found
not guilty. Kurt wasn't sure he thought
that. He just didn't appreciate spending six
weeks covering something whose outcome was
entirely known. And anyway, he'd just seen a
Corrections Office from the now empty MCC,
where Jeffrey Epstein died, found not guilty
of having demanded sex from an inmate's
girlfriend when he caught her trying to
bring in drugs. Maybe that victim hadn't
seemed sympathetic to the jury. Would these?
photos, however, were put into public
evidence, include a sex toy called the
Torpedo, flashed on the screen in the
courtroom and then gone. Then they bought
out the physical massage table, the one said
to have been found with semen stains on it.
It was set up in the courtroom and there
were some muffled laughs. Readers came at
Kurt - how dare they laugh? Who's laughing?
But wasn't here to out anyone. Or, that
would be for #MaximumMaxwell.
last witness was on for very little time, a
stipulation having been reach so that he
could fly back to Palm Beach at the end of
the day. Did he remember investigating the
reported burglary at Epstein's house, and
interviewing Alessi about it? He did. The
defense argument seemed to be, cash and guns
- who's the criminal here? But a massive sex
trafficking and spying conspiracy, involving
payoffs to and blackmail of the biggest
politicians of the time? #MaximumMaxwell.
On October 29,
2021 and again on November 12
Office for the
New York filed
a flurry of
are not public
and will be
case is US v. Maxwell,
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