On Tuesday, Oct. 9, Canada’s justice minister said that Ghislaine Maxwell will not be allowed to run for parliament, ending a stunning political rise for a defendant facing sex-trafficking charges in a human-trafficking case that grabbed international headlines.
This is not the end of the legal saga for Ghislaine Maxwell, a 31-year-old Victoria-based senator who recently became a middle-class darling of the Canadian left. Last month, lawyers for Maxwell challenged her legal status as a senator as a way to blunt the impact of her jailing and efforts to arrest and extradite her to the United States on July 26.
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In 2006, Maxwell founded the charity Children’s Rights International, whose namesake boasts a devoted fan base that’s now led by a future Quebec Liberal MP and Cabinet minister. It’s unclear whether Maxell’s legal troubles, which include allegations that she worked for several years as a “sugar baby” with clients from China, will resonate in her bid to run for office.
But for her supporters, the case represents the latest chapter in an inspiring tale: a hard-working single mother whose foundation was slated to be awarded the Canadian International Development Agency’s $20 million Sauder Prize for Excellence in International Development has emerged as a champion for disadvantaged children, climbing her way to a fellowship that landed her at Harvard. And, they argue, the U.S. should pay more attention to the establishment of a college degree in human trafficking, akin to a degree in psychology.
Maxwell’s legal problems, though, may also have a serious impact on her bid to win public office. Regardless of whether Maxwell retains her Senate position, her multiple-term ambition to become a lawmaker has taken a hit and the fallout will become painfully apparent at her next court date Oct. 31.
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Maxwell, who denied the sex-trafficking allegations during an earlier court hearing, is scheduled to enter pleas Oct. 25 to four counts of human trafficking and one count of procuring a person to engage in sex acts for money.
Nearly a year after Canada’s Supreme Court ordered U.S. authorities to pursue extradition proceedings against Maxwell, the capital sentence she faces could make an appeal against extradition too difficult for her to mount, as well as subject her to health care and housing expenses while awaiting trial in the U.S. prison system.
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But she did not name her alleged victims in the affidavit in which she is quoted threatening “threats of violence, threats of harm to her husband, children and to her family,” or trying to hit an undercover officer over the head with a chair, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled Maxwell would be extradited to the U.S. unless she could show compelling arguments in favor of winning her case, which she failed to do. “I believe Ms. Maxwell’s human-rights claims will be borne out by later judicial proceedings in the U.S.,” the high court wrote, according to a Canadian Broadcasting report.
Maxwell argues that she was a victim of U.S. government-backed human-trafficking, the CBC reports. However, some experts have downplayed that argument as propaganda that could be used to thwart the extradition process, according to the CBC report.
For her part, Maxwell is set to answer charges regarding one woman and three men, the CBC reports. The CBC report is based on more than 30 hours of excerpts from the probable cause affidavit.
In a statement Wednesday, a lawyer for the Sen. told the CBC the case will proceed as originally set, with Maxwell pleading guilty to the four sex charges, in one of the defendants.
“Until the end of the trial on Oct. 25, Sen. Maxwell will remain not guilty to the final charges in the indictment,” Barbara Harris told the CBC.
In July, the Canadian government announced that Maxwell would not serve as a senator even though she had been granted a two-year legal reprieve while awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Holly Cazares contributed to this report.