Ghislaine Maxwell has been pictured with a “black eye” in a photo released by her lawyer.
The 59-year-old British socialite, who has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging she recruited teenage girls for ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, said did not know where the bruise came from – but it may be due to her using a sock or towel to shield her eyes.
Guards shine light into her prison cell every 15 minutes to make sure she is still breathing and has not tried to kill herself, lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said.
The claims are contained in a letter to the district court judge overseeing the case.
The letter said that guards at the Brooklyn jail where Maxwell is being held had threatened to move her to separate housing if she could not explain the bruise.
Ms Sternheim wrote: “While Ms Maxwell is unaware of the cause of the bruise, as reported to medical and psych staff, she has grown increasingly reluctant to report information to the guards for fear of retaliation, discipline, and punitive chores.”
Judge Alison J Nathan said prosecutors must explain within a week whether and why jail officials might be subjecting Maxwell to “flashlight surveillance” and whether she could be given “appropriate eye covering”.
Maxwell faces sex trafficking and other charges related to her alleged role in procuring four teenage girls for financier Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.
Last week she pleaded not guilty to all charges in her first appearance before a judge.
She has been in custody since she was arrested in July 2020 in New Hampshire.
Her lawyers have previously said that prison conditions are undermining her preparation for a trial scheduled for 12 July, but she has been denied bail three times due to concerns she is a flight risk.
Her lawyers had offered a guarantee of $28.5m (£20m), 24-hour armed guards, and a promise from Maxwell – a US citizen – that she would renounce her British and French citizenships.
Epstein killed himself in jail in August 2019 while awaiting his own trial on sex trafficking charges.