Ms Maxwell, 59, is awaiting trial in New York on charges of procuring three teenage girls in the 1990s for her ex-boyfriend, billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, to sexually abuse them and that she committed perjury in a civil case in 2016. She has pleaded not guilty.
Attorney Bobbi Sternheim has written to a Manhattan judge saying her client was undergoing a pat-down search in her isolation cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center when the abuse occurred and that her request that the procedure be filmed was declined.
Ms Sternheim wrote: “When Ms Maxwell recoiled in pain and when she said she would report the mistreatment, she was threatened with disciplinary action.”
Days later, a guard ordered her clean, sanitise and scrub the walls of a shower with a broom, the lawyer wrote, allegedly retaliation for having reported the abuse.
Ms Sternheim repeated assertions that Ms Maxwell is being subjected to onerous conditions that include repeated searches and having a torch flashed into her cell every 15 minutes while she sleeps, seemingly to ensure she does not attempt to take her own life as Epstein is understood to have done in August 2019.
She says her client has been subjected to physical searches approximately 1,400 times in seven months and no contraband has been found.
She wrote that Ms Maxwell – the youngest daughter of newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell – is under 24-hour surveillance by up to six guards at a time and approximately 18 cameras, as well as with a hand-held camera when she is moved outside her cell.
Harsh treatment including badly prepared food that is sometimes inedible has also taken a toll on her health, according to Ms Sternheim.
“She is withering to a shell of her former self – losing weight, losing hair, and losing her ability to concentrate,” Ms Sternheim wrote.
“In addition to the many difficulties impacting her review of electronic discovery materials, the over-management and stress are impacting her stamina and effectiveness in preparing her defence and conferring with counsel.”
Lawyers said she had approximately $22.5m in assets and had set aside over $7m for her defence.
A spokesperson for the prosecutors declined to comment when approached by the Associated Press, which also sought comment from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Additional reporting by AP