UPDATE 1-U.S. judge to decide whether Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell deserves bail

(Adds details about Maxwell's arrest, alleged efforts to evade capture)

NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge is expected to decide on Tuesday whether to grant bail to Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's longtime associate, who has been charged with luring young girls so the late financier could sexually abuse them.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan is set to handle the arraignment of Maxwell, who prosecutors accused of helping Epstein recruit and eventually abuse girls from 1994 to 1997, and lying about her role in depositions in 2016.

Prosecutors on Monday also described efforts they said Maxwell used to try to avoid being captured.

Maxwell, 58, is expected to plead not guilty to six criminal charges, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts, and two for perjury.

Prosecutors want Maxwell detained, calling her an "extreme" flight risk with no reason to stay in the United States. Maxwell's lawyers are seeking a bail package including a $5 million bond, and home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Maxwell was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding out at a 156-acre (63 hectares) property she bought last December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded.

Lawyers for Maxwell said she moved there, and changed her phone and email address, to escape "unrelenting and intrusive media coverage."

But prosecutors said on Monday that when FBI agents went to arrest Maxwell, they had to forcibly enter her home, where she hid in an interior room, and found a cellphone wrapped in tin foil in an apparent effort to evade detection.

Maxwell also used former British military personnel to guard her in New Hampshire, prosecutors said.

"There should be no question that the defendant is skilled at living in hiding," prosecutors said, adding that her wealth and multiple citizenships - American, French and British - also supported the need for detention.

Maxwell has been held since July 6 at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a Brooklyn jail, and is expected to appear by video conference at the 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) arraignment.

Lawyers for Maxwell also have argued that bail was justified because she might contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the Brooklyn jail.

Her lawyers have previewed Maxwell's possible defenses.

These include that her alleged misconduct occurred long ago and would be hard to prosecute, and that she was shielded by Epstein's 2007 plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Miami, which covered "any potential co-conspirators."

Epstein was charged last July with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women from 2002 to 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He hanged himself last Aug. 10 at age 66 in a Manhattan jail.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Will Dunham)

07/14/2020 13:26

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