Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of assisting Jeffrey Epstein in the sexual abuse of young women.
The verdict came at the end of a month-long trial that featured harrowing accounts of sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teenagers at Epstein’s opulent homes in Florida, New York, and New Mexico in the 1990s and early 2000s.
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Jurors deliberated for five days before convicting Maxwell on five of six charges. Maxwell remained fairly quiet beneath a black mask as the decision was announced. She stood with her hands folded as the jury filed out, and as she was brought out the courthouse, she looked at her siblings, who had diligently attended every day of the trial. She didn’t embrace her attorneys on the way out, which was a significant departure from prior days, when Maxwell and her team were often physically friendly with one another.
She faces years in prison, an outcome long sought by women who fought in civil courts for years to hold Maxwell accountable for her role in recruiting and grooming Epstein’s teenage victims, as well as sometimes participating in the sexual abuse.
Maxwell was found guilty of conspiring to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiring to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiring to commit sex trafficking of minors, and sex trafficking of minors, the latter of which carries a statutory maximum of 40 years in prison.
She was found not guilty of luring a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
The defence had argued that Maxwell was the victim of a vengeful prosecution designed to bring justice to women who had lost their primary villain when Epstein committed himself while awaiting trial in 2019.
During the trial, prosecutors introduced 24 witnesses to paint a picture for jurors of life inside Epstein’s houses, which have been the topic of public interest and conjecture since his arrest in Florida in 2006 in a child sex case.
A housekeeper testified that he was expected to be “blind, deaf, and dumb” about the private lives of Epstein, a financier who cultivated friendships with influential politicians and business tycoons, and Maxwell, the favourite child of a media mogul.
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Pilots testified, naming celebrities who travelled on Epstein’s private aircraft, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.
Jurors saw tangible evidence such as Epstein’s foldable massage table and a “black book” that recorded contact information for several of the victims under the category “massages.”
He had transferred $30.7 million to Maxwell, his longstanding partner – one-time lover, then employee — according to bank documents.
The evidence of four women who claimed to have been abused by Maxwell and Epstein when they were young was at the heart of the case.
Jane, a television actress, Kate, a former model from the United Kingdom, and Carolyn, a mother suffering from drug addiction, all testified under first names or pseudonyms to preserve their privacy. Annie Farmer, a psychologist who chose to use her real name after being vocal about her allegations in recent years, was the fourth.
They echoed each other’s descriptions of Maxwell’s behaviour: she used charm and gifts to gain their trust, taking an interest in their adolescent problems and assuring them that Epstein could use his wealth and connections to make their dreams come true.
They said the script would darken when Maxwell coaxed them into giving sexual massages to Epstein, encounters she pretended were normal: Kate, then 17, said that after one sexual massage, Maxwell asked her if she had pleasure and told her, “You are such a lovely girl.”
Carolyn testified that in the early 2000s, she was one of numerous disadvantaged teenagers who lived near Epstein’s Florida house and accepted an offer to perform massages in return for $100 notes, which prosecutors characterised as a “pyramid of abuse.”
Carolyn testified to the jury that Maxwell made all of the arrangements, although knowing the girl was just 14 at the time.
Jane claims that when she was 14, she was told to accompany Epstein into a pool house at his Palm Beach home, where he masturbated on her.
The lone count on which Maxwell was found not guilty, inciting a child to travel to participate in illicit sex activities, solely pertained to Jane.
“I was paralysed in horror,” she told the jury, adding that the attack was her first encounter with a penis. She also accused Maxwell of being complicit in her assault.
Maxwell’s lawyer questioned Jane on why she had waited so long to come forward.
“I was terrified,” she admitted, choking back tears. “I felt humiliated and ashamed. I didn’t want anybody to find out anything about myself.”
Farmer, the last witness, stated how Maxwell groped her breasts while giving her a massage at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, and how Epstein abruptly jumped into bed and rubbed himself against her.
Maxwell, 60, vigorously contested the claims via her attorneys.
Nonetheless, she refused to testify, telling the court, “The government has not established its case beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore there is no need for me to testify.”
“The allegations against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein committed,” one of Maxwell’s attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, told the jurors. “But she is neither Jeffrey Epstein, nor is she similar to Jeffrey Epstein.”
Maxwell’s legal team questioned if the accusers’ recollections were defective or affected by civil court attorneys seeking large compensation from Maxwell and Epstein’s inheritance.
During their two-day presentation, they brought as a witness Elizabeth Loftus, a University of California Irvine professor who has testified as a memory expert for defence counsel in over 300 prosecutions, including Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial.
She claims that suggestions made by an interviewer, particularly law enforcement or the media, can taint memory.
Maxwell’s family, who were there every day of the trial, said she was under pressure due to severe circumstances at the Brooklyn prison where she has been kept since her arrest in July 2020. She had unsuccessfully requested bail on many occasions, claiming that she was unable to contribute sufficiently to her defence.
Epstein and Maxwell’s legal battles are far from over.
Maxwell is still facing a perjury trial on two charges.
Lawsuits regarding the abuse accusations are also ongoing, including one in which Virginia Giuffre, a woman not participating in the trial, claims she was compelled into sexual relations with Prince Andrew when she was 17 years old. Andrew has refuted her claim, and the case is not anticipated to go to trial for some months.
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