“She Is Not Jeffrey Epstein”: Meet the Lawyers Trying to Set Ghislaine Maxwell Free

Vanity Fair 

Ghislaine Maxwell
’s trial started with a gasp. “Ever since Eve was tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men, and women are often villainized and punished more than the men ever are,” Bobbi Sternheim, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, said to begin her opening statement. To the reporters gathered in the viewing room inside the Thurgood Marshall federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, the biblical comparison played like a bit of epic trolling. But it turned out to be the opening salvo in a through-the-looking-glass strategy that aims to position Maxwell as a feminist “scapegoat” of the patriarchy. It was surely no accident that Maxwell wore a white sweater, heavy with suffragette symbolism, for day one of the trial.

Maxwell’s legal team comprises four formidable defense lawyers, two of whom are women: Sternheim and Denver-based attorney Laura Menninger. Instead of attacking Maxwell’s accusers’ credibility head on, they have tried to focus more on the men in the case. “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein, she is not like Jeffrey Epstein, and she is not like any of the other men, powerful men, moguls, media giants who abuse women,” Sternheim told the jury. Sternheim and Menninger have also gone after the accusers’ personal injury lawyers who, Sternheim said, manipulated their female clients into testifying against Maxwell in order to win a “big jackpot.” Sternheim and Menninger said that the Epstein Victims Compensation Fund pays accusers more money if they cooperate with the government’s investigation of Maxwell. Maxwell’s accusers received multimillion-dollar settlements, Sternheim told the jury.

Menninger has a methodical and reserved presence during cross-examination. In the first week of what is expected to be a six-week trial, she wielded questions like a scalpel to cut holes in the harrowing account of an anonymous victim known only as Jane, who alleged she was abused by Epstein and Maxwell starting in 1994 when she was 14. Jane repeated “I don’t recall” more than 20 times during one 10-minute stretch of questioning by Menninger.

Sternheim, meanwhile, comes across as a brash, plainspoken New Yorker with upturned collars and thick plastic-frame glasses. In criminal defense circles, Sternheim is regarded as a pathbreaking feminist. “Bobbi is one of my heroes,” said defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth, who defended an alleged drug trafficker with Sternheim during a 2016 federal murder trial (Sternheim successfully convinced the judge to take the death penalty off the table, Meyers Buth said). “There’s not many women who do criminal defense work. She’s a legend.”

Sternheim, who is 68, has represented many high-profile defendants charged with heinous crimes. In 2015, she defended al-Qaida member Khalid al-Fawwaz, who was charged with participating in the 1998 U.S Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. In 2016, she represented Minh Quang Pham, a member of al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate who was accused of plotting to bomb Heathrow airport in London. Sternheim lost both cases (al-Fawwaz received life in prison; Pham got 40 years). But Meyers Buth said that’s not a reflection of Sternheim’s skill. “We have a saying in our business. Lawyers who talk about win-loss records aren’t trying the tough cases. Bobbi takes on the toughest cases. She’s fearless.”

Menninger had represented Maxwell in 2015 during a defamation case brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre (The case was settled in 2017). Like Sternheim, she has been unafraid to take on difficult or unpopular cases. In 2016, she defended then Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov in a lawsuit brought by an ex-girlfriend who alleged Varlamov viciously beat her after a 2013 Halloween party. Menninger was part of the defense team that successfully kept out of court a set of graphic pictures of injuries the ex-girlfriend allegedly suffered from Varlamov. The jury sided with Varlamov and ordered the ex-girlfriend to pay $126,000 in damages.

It’s way too early to speculate about the outcome of the Maxwell case. Only one of four accusers has taken the stand. Next week will likely feature more sessions of gruesome testimony by Maxwell’s alleged victims. Having seen Sternheim and Menninger in action, prosecutors can make sure their witnesses are ready.

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Court to Court

How an encounter with a stingray led Cheryl Meyers Buth to the NBA

Cheryl Meyers Buth Meyers Buth Law Group; Criminal Defense, Entertainment & Sports; Orchard Park

If you see Cheryl Meyers Buth tooling around Orchard Park in her Jeep, please stop asking her if she knows LeBron James. She doesn’t. "If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that," she says, laughing. (She does, however, have his agent’s number.)

Why does Buth, one of Buffalo’s most renowned criminal lawyers, find herself questioned about one of basketball’s greats?

You’d have to go back to an unfortunate run-in with a stingray.

Buth and husband Neil ("The best life partner," she says) skipped town in 2015 to do nothing but lie on a Florida beach after Buth finished a monthlong federal trial. But the first day in those azure waters, "A stingray got me. The barb punctured my ankle," Buth says. For the rest of the trip—and afterward—Buth was laid up. "I had a lot of time to think about life," she says. Largely, she thought: I need something to do after I retire.

A lifelong obsession with the NBA and a love for playing basketball—"but I’m no Kathleen Sweet," she quips—got the wheels turning. She wondered what it would take to get a sports-management agency running.

So Buth completed the training to become a certified agent for the National Basketball Players Association. Now in addition to Meyers Buth Law Group, the criminal defense and civil lit shop she runs with partner Laurie A. Baker, she owns R1 Sports Mgnt. She works with mostly athletes, but her talent roster includes Juilliard-trained vocalist Jay Dref; hip-hop artist Young World; as well as local TV and news personalities.

Her dual gigs put her at the pulse of two male-dominated industries.

"It’s empowering because you are challenging yourself and accepted norms," Buth says. "It’s frustrating because some doors still aren’t open."

She uses her unique position to get into rooms anyway.

"There’s no better icebreaker with guys than sports," she says. "It’s not all that different from me growing up playing kickball with the boys. You learned not to care that you got picked last because once they saw you weren’t the worst, they stopped punching you in the arm when you got on base and started to high-five you instead."

With R1, she’s enjoyed getting to know the lawyers who support the Players Association.

"It’s been great learning from them," Buth says. "Taking the classes required for certification as an agent and learning about the league’s collective bargaining agreement or arbitration cases or trade and salary cap issues is intense. It gives so much more context to what you hear on ESPN. The most interesting stuff happens off the court."

Along the way, Buth befriended veteran agent Andre Buck. "He’s taught me a lot and has referred players to me when they need legal help," she says. "I’ve represented top prospects in basketball and football who have been arrested or who jeopardized their eligibility."

But for Buth, it comes back to the law. "I’m a lawyer first," she says.

In her early years, after a crash course in criminal defense with some of the best in the biz—Paul Cambria, Herb Greenman, Joseph LaTona, Barry Covert, Vince Tobia, Rob Boreanaz and mentor Joel Daniels—she knew she wanted to go on her own eventually, and on her terms.

"I’ve been given a lot of advice from lawyers who don’t know me well who tried to tell me how I needed to bill, or which clients to take or that I’m not a player if I’m not downtown," Buth says. "That advice, with all due respect, is 100 percent wrong. That’s why I quietly practice in Orchard Park, drive a Jeep and charge $200 and not $400."

She’s seen a change in her practice, with a recent uptick in federal death penalty cases. "At the moment I’m waiting for a decision from the DOJ about whether they intend to seek death for a client," she says. "It’s challenging intellectually and personally."

The next challenge is helping level the playing field for women.

"In both law and sports, women are finding ways to influence their respective fields," she says, giving snaps to Michele Roberts, the first woman executive director of the National Basketball Players Association; as well as to Judge Elizabeth Wolford, the district’s first female judge, and Trini Ross, whom Sen. Chuck Schumer recently backed for U.S. attorney.

"But women are still underrepresented as law firm owners, big-firm partners, federal judges and in politics," she says. "It’s so frustrating when I look around and see the small number of women handling criminal cases in federal court. But I can see how much has changed since I started 25 years ago. It gives me hope."

Kenmore debt collection companies subject of fraud investigation

Federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of $90,385 that was seized last year from a Kenmore debt collector who is the subject of a government investigation into fraud allegations.

The money was seized from a residence on Hamilton Boulevard on May 7 by Homeland Security investigators, according to court papers filed by the U.S Attorney’s Office on Thursday.

Prosecutors allege that Mark M. Miller of the Kenmore address owned and operated several businesses, “which engaged in a wire fraud scheme related to unlawful debt collection activities involving victims across the United States,” according to court papers.

The forfeiture is a civil action, not criminal. No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the investigation, law enforcement officials confirmed on Friday, adding that the probe is continuing.

Miller, 47, denies any allegations of wrongdoing and is contesting the government’s seizure of his money, said two attorneys who represent him, Frank LoTempio III and Cheryl Meyers Buth.

Joseph C. Bella III “is absolutely not a member of any organized crime,” attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said. “I think the government is trying to connect dots that presently don’t exist.”

“Mark Miller has been fighting to get his property back since armed agents came to his home and seized his property almost 11 months ago,” Buth said Friday. “The government also seized several vehicles from him, and we contested those seizures, and the vehicles were returned to him.”

“This is a civil forfeiture case at this point. No criminal charges have been filed,” Buth added.

Report: Cuomo’s coronavirus task force under federal investigation

NEW YORK (WIVB) – The FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are in the early stages of an investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo coronavirus task force and its handling of nursing homes, the Albany Times-Union reported Thursday night.

John Marzulli, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, had no comment on the report.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has been under fire for his handling of nursing homes and sharing of public information for weeks from both Republicans and Democrats. The GOP has criticized a March 25 order from the governor that nursing homes could not deny residents admission on the sole basis of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Full Story on WIVB.com


Murder of drug informant could become death penalty case

In the weeks leading up to the start of summer last year, Joshua Jalovick was looking to score some coke.

What his drug dealers didn't know is that the Buffalo man was also working as an informant and wearing a wire.

Or did they know?

Just a few months into his work with police, Jalovick's body, riddled with gun shots and left for dead, turned up in a backyard on Freund Street.

The two men accused of pulling the trigger that July day are now charged in a new grand jury indictment.

And they are facing the death penalty.

Prosecutors say Gregory Hay and Alphonso Payne, both of Buffalo, learned of Jalovick's cooperation and plotted to kill him.

They also claim there are three eyewitnesses to the murder, each one of them now charged in the case.

“The victim was a drug dealer and a snitch for the feds who was trying to benefit himself," defense lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buth said Thursday. "My client wasn’t the only person he was informing on. The government knew what the risks were for him on the street.”

Full Story: https://buffalonews.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/murder-of-drug-informant-could-become-death-penalty-case/article_5f88d9bf-1631-56c6-8f24-bf89d87da851.html

As state courts reopen, new Child Victims Act cases filed


Gow School sued

Adam alleged in his lawsuit that Michael Holland, a faculty member and assistant headmaster, started touching him inappropriately in 1992 and 1993, when Adam was a 14-year-old freshman living in a Gow dormitory supervised by Holland. The touching escalated to criminal sexual abuse and assault, including sodomy, according to court papers.

In a statement to The Buffalo News, attorneys Cheryl Meyers Buth and Brian Melber said that their client was exposing what happened to him at the school to protect other children who had no way to fight back against adult sexual predators.

“We’re not talking about just one employee or an isolated incident or ancient history. Our client and other pre-teen/teenage boys were subjected to repeated sexual assaults in the early to mid-90s when there was public awareness about these types of crimes,” they said.

It is the third CVA lawsuit against the Gow School, a college-prep boarding and day school for students with dyslexia and similar language-based learning disabilities. It was an all-boys school until going co-educational in 2013.

Letter to judge details conditions inside prison Chris Collins is scheduled to serve sentence

“Courts are being very good about keeping the prison population low to prevent the transmission of disease,” said Cheryl Meyers Buth, a local attorney who has been providing News 4 analysis on the Collins case. “Also, they don’t want to put any individual prisoner at risk.”

When an inmate reports to FPC Pensacola, the attorneys told the judge, they are immediately tested for the coronavirus. Even if they test negative, they are placed in a quarantine unit for 14 days. Prisoners in the quarantine unit do not have access to email or phones for social calls. If, at the end of the 14-day period, the inmate is asymptomatic and tests negative again for the virus, they are released into the general population.

“Heightened cleaning standards are in place, and inmates in the general population are issued multiple face masks and encouraged to wear them in common areas,” the attorneys wrote. “There is currently no lockdown in place, and inmates have access to the library, recreation, and programming.”

Meyers Buth said it is was not uncommon for surrender dates to be pushed back for federal inmates even before the coronavirus pandemic.

“Certainly since COVID, all bets are off,” she said. “Things have been delayed. There’s been a lot more confusion. It’s just the product of the times right now.

Full Story: https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/letter-to-judge-details-conditions-inside-prison-chris-collins-is-scheduled-to-serve-sentence/

Niagara University student says she was sexually assaulted by member of school’s swim team


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LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) – A sophomore student at Niagara University was sexually assaulted by a member of the men’s swim team in a Fall 2018 incident, a lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, which was initially filed in federal court earlier this year, was amended Thursday to include the new allegation. The female student is not identified. Neither is the swim team member. The lawsuit does note, however, that the man is still a member of the swim team.

The woman joins three others as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in September. The other three women are all either current or former members of Niagara’s women’s swim or dive teams. They claim that they were “subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment and bullying by members of the men’s swim team”.

“Had the university taken appropriate action when complaints about sexual harassment and other abuse was first made in 2015, (20)16, (20)17, she may not have had the same issues that she did with this young man,” said Cheryl Meyers Buth, an attorney who represents the alleged sexual assault victim.

The lawsuit claims that following the assault, the victim received a threatening phone message from a man she believed to be the person who assaulted her. She then met with Niagara’s Title IX Coordinator Ryan Thompson, who “influenced her not to” file a formal complaint, she said.

Full Story: https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/niagara-university-student-says-she-was-sexually-assaulted-by-member-of-schools-swim-team/

Chris Collins sentenced to 26 months in prison

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NEW YORK CITY (WIVB) — Chris Collins was on Friday sentenced to 26 months for his conviction on conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI.

The former congressman for New York’s 27th District was also handed down one year of supervised release and a $200,000 fine.

Collins last year pleaded guilty to insider trading, as did his son Cameron Collins and his son’s father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky, who were both tipped off. That allowed them to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, as alleged by prosecutors in the indictment Collins pleaded guilty to.

Federal prosecutors recommended that Collins serve between 46 and 57 months in prison. Collins’ attorneys sought probation. Probation officers recommended he spend a year and a day in prison.

“It’s a big swing,” said Cheryl Meyers Buth, a legal analyst and attorney at Meyers Buth Law Group. “I find in my practice it’s the most stressful time for a defense client because you won’t know until you’re standing in front of a judge what he’s going to do.

“You won’t know – are you going to federal prison are you going to a halfway house? Are you going to be on probation and what the conditions of probation are going to be?”

Full Story: https://www.wivb.com/news/top-stories/chris-collins-sentencing-january-17/

Collins files appeal in insider trading case; effect on trial date unclear

NEW YORK (WIVB) – Rep. Chris Collins has appealed a recent decision by the judge in his insider trading case. It could create a delay that leads to the postponement of his trail date, which is currently scheduled for February 3rd, 2020.

In a letter sent to Judge Vernon Broderick, on Friday, Collins’ attorney said he has filed an appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal revolves around Speech or Debate concerns that Collins has raised.

“Congressman Collins does not anticipate filing any further motions in this Court bearing on the Speech or Debase Clause during the pendency of this appeal,” Jonathan Barr wrote.

Barr is Collins’ lead attorney in the case.

The Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects certain actions by congress people while they are at work. Collins has been asking for prosecutors to turn over more evidence that he thinks will prove his Speech or Debate rights were violated as the federal government investigated his case.

On September 6th, however, Broderick filed a ruling stating Collins was not entitled to receive that evidence. The Court of Appeals will now answer the same question.

While it could force a delay in the February trial date, attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth, who is not associated with the Collins case, says the trial date could still be saved.

“It depends on what the 2nd Circuit does,” Buth said. “They could issue, for example, an expedited briefing schedule which would require the government and Congressman Collins’ attorneys to file briefs much quicker than they would normally require.

Full Story: https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/collins-files-appeal-in-insider-trading-case-effect-on-trial-date-unclear/