Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty in sex trafficking trial
Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty by a New York jury of criminal sex trafficking stemming from her years-long relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The ruling came Wednesday night after a three-week trial in which Maxwell, 60, described by prosecutors as a “sophisticated predator” who worked “hand-to-hand” with Epstein to prey on vulnerable women.
Her defense portrayed her as an innocent woman unjustly scapegoated by him. She was found guilty of five of the six charges against her, including one that carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
There was no apparent reaction from Maxwell when the verdict was read, as reported by US media.
The trial was seen by victim advocates as their best chance to get an accounting of Epstein’s story and win some measure of justice after the financier die by suicide in a New York cell in August 2019, a month after his arrest. The ruling also offers redemption to the US Department of Justice following previous controversies over the Epstein case.
Damian Williams, US attorney for the southern district of New York, said in a statement after the ruling was announced: “The road to justice is too long. “But, today, justice has been done.”
The results came as a surprise on Friday, after many legal analysts worried that the jury was bogged down and a surge in Covid infections in New York City could lead to a mistake case.
Annie Farmer, one of the victims who testified against Maxwell, was delighted with the results. “I am so relieved and grateful that the jury recognized the kind of predatory behavior Maxwell had committed over the years and found her guilty of these crimes. She has hurt more women than a few of us, who had the opportunity to testify in the courtroom,” Farmer said in a statement.
Maxwell’s trial frequently featured cryptic testimony from Farmer and three other women, who allege that Epstein abused them through sexual massages starting when they were 14 years old.
Prosecutors allege that Maxwell sometimes participated in the abuse. They say the British social page was essential to the scheme, because she helped recruit girls and win their trust while bringing respect to the outside world. She was paid more than $30 million by Epstein.
Her lawyers countered that the accusers had altered their memories to win a “jackpot prize” from an Epstein victims fund established after his death. Maxwell, they say, she was the victim of one of the greatest fraudsters of the time and was unaware of his activities despite their close relationship.
“Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” Laura Menninger, her attorney, told jurors during arguments last weekend. “She is being tried for being with Jeffrey Epstein. It may have been the biggest mistake of her life, but it’s not a crime.”
Menninger also accused prosecutors of labeling her client as “Cruella de Vil and The Devil Wears Prada all wrapped into one ”.
Epstein, a college dropout, amassed a fortune with a mysterious financial consulting business and come to stand shoulder to shoulder with two presidents – Donald Trump and Bill Clinton – while befriending business, academic and political superstars.
Testing has given a rich view of luxury life of Epstein and Maxwell, including a fleet of private jets and real estate in Palm Beach and Manhattan, a ranch in New Mexico, and a private Caribbean island. At one point, prosecutors brought one of Epstein’s massage tables into the courtroom.
But it does shed light on his ties to some of the many powerful men who have been tarnished by their ties to Epstein, including Leslie Wexner, The Limited’s billionaire founder. and Victoria’s Secret; Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder; Black Leon, private equity investors; or Jes Staley, who was forced to resign as Barclays chief executive in November after it was revealed he had perjured his relationship with Epstein.
Maxwell, the Oxford-trained daughter of the late British newspaper baron and embezzler Robert Maxwell, contacted Epstein in Manhattan in the early 1990s, and they quickly became a formidable group: connections Her social connections and charm helped advance his business interests.
But behind the scenes, Florida police began investigating reports that a wealthy Palm Beach man sexually abused underage girls from local schools. Epstein was granted a secret agreement in 2008, allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of prostitution and serve a 13-month prison sentence while working in his office.
The case was revived by federal prosecutors in Manhattan after an investigative report in the Miami Herald by journalist Julie K Brown. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey in July 2019 after stepping off a private jet. Maxwell was arrested a year later at a big house in rural New Hampshire called Tucked Away.
In one of the trial’s most emotional moments, a witness identified as “Carolyn” described her being raised in a dilapidated home – with an alcoholic mother and absent father – and how an older girl took her to Epstein’s Palm Beach when she was 14. with the promise of making some cash.
It was the start of what would be hundreds of aphrodisiac visits over the next two years, with Carolyn and her boyfriend using the money to buy drugs. She called the British woman who helped arrange the dates “Maxwell,” she testified, because she could not pronounce her name. Her boyfriend described her as “a child” at the time.
“My soul is broken,” Carolyn said at one point in her testimony.
Another witness, identified as “Jane”, recounted when Epstein drove her to the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach to meet Trump.
Maxwell spent much of the trial shuffling papers on the table in front of her and conferring with her attorneys. She is usually supported by siblings Kevin, Ian and Isabel in the front row of the court.
Maxwell refused to testify in his own defense, telling the judge: “Glory to you, the government has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and so I don’t need to testify. .” That was the only time she spoke in court.