Heated disputes over exhibits. Angry accusations of name-calling. Objections dripping with sarcasm.
Even by the standards of a high-stakes criminal trial, the tensions between Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers and the federal prosecutors trying her case have been remarkable, sometimes spilling into open hostility in court.
While the jury has been seated in the courtroom, theatrical impatience is the weapon of choice for both sides. But when the jury box has been empty, the gloves have come off, often leaving federal judge Alison J. Nathan to make peace.
The animosity has been particularly apparent between Laura Menninger, one of Ms. Maxwell’s longtime lawyers, and an assistant U.S. attorney, Alison Moe.
One of their earliest trial exchanges took place during Ms. Menninger’s cross-examination of a witness identified as Jane, the first of four accusers to take the stand against Ms. Maxwell.
Ms. Moe repeatedly objected to a line of questioning by Ms. Menninger about communications between Jane’s lawyer and the government regarding tickets to “The Lion King” on Broadway. Jane had said Mr. Epstein gave her the tickets.
Responding to the barrage of objections, Ms. Menninger repeatedly rephrased her question. Finally, Ms. Moe said: “No objection, your Honor.”
“Good,” Judge Nathan said.
Then Ms. Menninger said, “I know Ms. Moe would like to come do this for me, but —”
“I do object to that, your Honor,” Ms. Moe said.
“All right,” Judge Nathan said. “Everybody calm down.”
A few days later, after the jury had been dismissed for the day, the defense objected to the government’s efforts to admit a slate of exhibits, including photographs of Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein together.
“Throughout this trial, the defense has repeatedly tried to distance Ms. Maxwell from Mr. Epstein and his affairs and argue that things were compartmentalized,” Ms. Moe said, her hands gesturing urgently. A few yards away, Ms. Menninger looked on with a stern face.
When Ms. Moe said prosecutors wanted to use a photograph depicting a topless 17-year-old and a second image depicting one of Ms. Maxwell’s accusers, Ms. Menninger objected, trampling on courtroom decorum by referring to Ms. Moe as “this lawyer.”
Then she accused Ms. Moe of trying to sneak in allegations about purportedly underage girls with the photos. She also said the prosecutor, who had argued against letting in other photos of the accusers, wanted to have it both ways when it came to sexualized images.
“We litigated whether or not we could put in evidence photographs of this witness, and the government called us — I think it was ‘slut-shaming’ — when I tried to argue there were other photographs of this individual that were much like this,” Ms. Menninger said.
“Your Honor, I’m surprised by all of those arguments,” Ms. Moe said.
The moments of accord have been so rare that they have been heralded as minor miracles. One day last week, when the jury was still out to lunch, one of Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers, Christian Everdell, told Judge Nathan that the two sides agreed on how the judge should address the jury about a particular witness.
Minutes later, Mr. Everdell said the two sides had concurred on another matter.
“We have agreement again, your Honor,” Mr. Everdell said.
“It’s a magical moment,” Judge Nathan said.
“It is a magical moment. I agree with you,” Mr. Everdell said. “Let’s hold onto this.”