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US District Judge Alison Nathan said a "short" postponement of the scheduled for July 12 trial was appropriate because federal prosecutors added new charges to the case, and Covid-19 protocols made trial preparation harder.
Nathan ordered prosecutors and Maxwell's lawyers to propose by May 10 their "earliest possible" trial date. "No additional delay is necessary or in the interests of justice," she added.
Lawyers for the 59-year-old British socialite did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for US Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.
Maxwell was arrested in the US in July last year. She has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and other charges over her alleged role in procuring four teenage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.
She had sought to delay the trial until at least November 8, and perhaps to next January, because adding the sex trafficking charges to her indictment on March 29 more than doubled the size of the government's case.
Prosecutors opposed an adjournment, but said they could accept a March 2022 start date to avoid scheduling conflicts.
Nathan said any adjournment must be "no longer than necessary," noting that Maxwell is being jailed in Brooklyn.
"Importantly, any victims and the public more broadly have a strong interest in trial proceeding without undue delay," she added.
Maxwell's lawyers have complained repeatedly that her trial preparation is impeded by her treatment in jail.
She has objected to guards who allegedly interfere with her review of evidence, and wake her at night by shining flashlights into her cell to ensure she does not commit suicide.
Epstein (66), a registered sex offender, was found dead in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.