Lawyers for the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell have accused the US government of prosecuting her for aiding Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuses only because Epstein is dead and they want to hold someone else responsible.
The accusation was made in one of several Thursday night court filings seeking to dismiss or narrow the case against Maxwell, who is accused of helping Epstein recruit three teenage girls for sex between 1994 and 1997, and then lying about it.
Maxwell, 59, was charged last July, 11 months after Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell while awaiting sex trafficking charges.
Her lawyers said the government's "sudden zeal" to concoct a case branding Maxwell as "Epstein's equal - if not his superior" reflected its effort to evade a 2007 non-prosecution agreement for Epstein that also covered associates like her.
"One does not need to engage in complex analysis to understand what has happened here: the government has sought to substitute our client for Jeffrey Epstein," her lawyers wrote.
"In trying 'to get' Ms. Maxwell, the government compromised its standards, cut corners, and exceeded its authority under the law."
A spokesman for US Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment on Friday.
Maxwell is being held in jail in Brooklyn, and has been denied bail twice.
She has raised other arguments for dismissal, including that the suburban grand jury that indicted her included too few Blacks and Hispanics, depriving her of her right to diversity.
Epstein's nonprosecution agreement shielded him and his associates from federal charges over his alleged sexual abuses at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
He pleaded guilty to a Florida state prostitution charge and served just 13 months in jail.
Some of Epstein's accusers have said they were wrongly kept in the dark while the agreement was negotiated.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta is considering their effort to void it, which would let them discuss with prosecutors why Epstein's associates should be charged.
Strauss' office has said the agreement applies only in Florida.