The eyes of the world are on a Manhattan courtroom as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell gets underway Monday. Here are the legal teams that are presenting their cases and the judge who is in charge.
United States District Judge Alison Nathan was appointed to the federal bench by former president Barack Obama in 2011. Prior to serving as a federal judge, she clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, worked as counsel for the attorney general of New York and was an associate White House counsel and special assistant for Obama.
Nathan has presided over a number of high-profile copyright cases, including one in 2013 in which she ruled that two news organizations violated the copyright of a photographer by using for commercial purposes photos that had been posted on Twitter.
In February, Nathan took the rare step of asking the Department of Justice to open an investigation into possible misconduct by New York federal prosecutors who withheld evidence in a case involving an Iranian businessman charged with breaking U.S. sanctions by funneling millions of dollars to his family business in Iran. She also issued a blistering criticism of the office that handled the case.
Since being assigned to the Maxwell case, Nathan has made clear that she intends to keep the trial on track. She has issued a number of pre-trial rulings, including permitting prosecutors to use the word "victim" when discussing Maxwell's accusers and allowing those accusers to testify anonymously using pseudonyms. She has also denied Maxwell bail on four occasions..
Nathan has carefully scrutinized document redactions proposed by both Maxwell and the prosecutors. She granted Maxwell's request to keep secret undisclosed "sensational" information contained in the court documents and transcripts, noting that removal of the material was necessary to protect the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of third parties who are not part of the criminal case. However, she has limited some of the redactions proposed by prosecutors.
In another twist, Nathan last week was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one step away from the Supreme Court.
She said she intends to see the Maxwell case through to the end.
For the Prosecution
Alison G. Moe
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison G. Moe is a member of the Southern District of New York's Public Corruption Unit. Prior to the Maxwell case, she was one of the federal prosecutors pursuing fraud charges against Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's top campaign adviser in 2016. Trump pardoned Bannon in January as the former adviser was awaiting trial on charges he duped individuals donating to build a privately sponsored section of the southern border wall.
Moe also took on a federal criminal case involving scam political action committees, and as a former member of Southern District of New York's narcotics unit she prosecuted a number of drug-trafficking cases.
Moe is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Law School. Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, she worked as an assistant corporate counsel in the New York City Law Department.
Maurene R. Comey
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene R. Comey has been with SDNY since 2014. She is a chief of the Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Comey is one of the assistant U.S. attorneys who charged a prominent New York gynecologist last year with sexually assaulting six women, including the wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Comey was also involved in a 2019 sex trafficking case in which 11 men were indicted on allegations that they forced 10 victims, some of whom were minors, to be sexually assaulted and abused as part of a commercial sex operation.
A graduate of William & Mary and Harvard Law School, she is the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey, who once served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Rohrbach has been with SDNY since 2019. He previously served as an attorney for the Department of Justice. In 2013, while at Harvard Law School, Rohrbach was designated as the "best oralist" in the Ames Moot Court Competition. Among the judges of the competition were the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Judge Merrick Garland, now the attorney general. He is also a graduate of Yale, where he served on the debate team.
Lara E. Pomerantz
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara E. Pomerantz was hired by SDNY in 2015. Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Pomerantz was an associate with the New York law firm Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.
She is a member of SDNY's Public Corruption Unit. Most recently, she handled the prosecution of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent alleged to have helped a drug-trafficking gang smuggle cocaine from Puerto Rico to the mainland as part of a decades-long drug operation. The gang committed at least seven murders.
In 2018, Pomerantz successfully prosecuted the corruption case of Norman Seabrook, the flamboyant former boss of the association representing New York City corrections officers.
She is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
For the Defense
Ghislaine Maxwell's trial is undoubtedly defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim's most prominent case, but she is no stranger to defending the accused accomplices of notorious men. She represented a Saudi man accused of being one of Osama bin Laden's top deputies, as well as a Vietnamese man accused of a thwarted suicide bombing plot at London's Heathrow airport at the direction of another Al Qaeda leader, the American Anwar al-Awlaki.
Both men were ultimately convicted and the 2016 trial of the Vietnamese man, Minh Quang Pham, was overseen by Nathan, who was recently recommended by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Sternheim has a long history in New York as a defense attorney and has defended alleged members of organized crime, drug dealers and public officials accused of corruption.
Sternheim has repeatedly raised concerns about Maxwell's treatment in federal custody at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. She previously brought a medical malpractice suit against the facility on behalf of Sean Erez, a convicted drug kingpin who had attracted notoriety for using young Hasidic Jewish men as his drug mules. The case was settled.
Sternheim, a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva Univesity, has served as the president of the New York Women's Bar Association from 1992 to 1993 and is currently the Criminal Justice Act representative for the Southern District of New York, representing private attorneys appointed by federal courts to provide legal services to defendants who can't afford to pay. She has taught law courses at Pace University and Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law, her alma mater, where she has led the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program.
The Maxwell trial might introduce her to many, but she's had at least one moment in the spotlight before: In 1993, she was cast to stand in for soap opera star Linda Dano on "Another World." Asked about the experience on CNN, Sternheim said her years as an attorney came in handy.
"When one is in court as a litigator, one can be theatrical in front of a jury," she said. "And I suppose there are some similarities."
Laura Menninger has been an attorney in Colorado for the past 20 years, though earlier in her career she clerked for a judge in the Southern District of New York, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who officiated at her 1999 wedding.
Kaplan is currently presiding over the lawsuit brought against Prince Andrew by Virginia Giuffre, who has said Maxwell recruited her for Jeffrey Epstein's abuse and that Maxwell and Epstein trafficked her to various high-profile friends. Menninger also represented Maxwell in a defamation lawsuit Giuffre brought against her in 2015, which was settled in 2017.
Menninger, who was a public defender in Colorado before joining the firm of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, has represented an acupuncturist accused of sexually assaulting clients, a cannabis dispensary accused of allowing customers to exceed daily limits on purchases, and a drug dealer whose 10-year-old daughter was killed in a shootout during a drug deal gone bad at his Denver apartment.
Menninger helped then-Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov prevail in a lawsuit brought against him by a former girlfriend seeking damages for assault and battery.
Menninger convinced a judge to block evidence of graphic pictures and descriptions of beatings Varlamov allegedly had given his former girlfriend. Varlamov is now a goalie for the New York Islanders.
Menninger is a graduate of Duke University and Stanford Law School.
Jeffrey Pagliuca is an attorney at the same Denver law firm as Menninger and also worked as a public defender in Colorado before joining the firm. Pagliuca's notable cases include a Colorado Springs real estate developer, Ray Marshall, accused of embezzling $1 million from a city incentive package designed to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs. The charges against Marshall were dropped eight years later.
Pagliuca also represented Craig Lewis, an editor for the Globe tabloid, who was charged with bribery and extortion for allegedly trying to buy a copy of the ransom note for JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old child beauty queen found dead in her Boulder, Colorado, home whose death attracted worldwide attention. Charges against Lewis were dismissed after he agreed to donate $100,000 to a journalism ethics program at the University of Colorado. Pagliuca also represented Maxwell in the lawsuit brought against her by Virginia Giuffre. Pagliuca is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Denver College of Law, where he has also taught.
Christian Everdell worked as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for nearly a decade, spending time as part of of the district's terrorism and international narcotics unit and its complex frauds and cybercrime unit.
He brought cases against members of Al Qaeda, FARC and other terrorist groups as well as Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout and the founders of a digital currency called Liberty Reserve that was used to launder nearly $8 billion. While at SDNY, he was part of a team that brought charges against Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, for which the team was awarded a True Heroes Award from the Federal Drug Agents Foundation, according to Everdell's company biography. Everdell graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.