NEW YORK – British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on Wednesday of luring teenage girls to be sexually assaulted by American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
The verdict capped a month-long trial featuring sordid tales of sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s. 2000s in Epstein’s lavish homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty on five of the six counts. With maximum prison terms on each charge ranging from five to 40 years in prison, Maxwell faces years behind bars – a result long sought by women who have spent years fighting in civil courts to hold her accountable. its role in recruitment and preparation. Epstein’s teenage victims and sometimes join in the sexual abuse.
Upon reading the verdict, Maxwell was largely stoic behind a black mask. Afterwards, Maxwell was seen pouring himself a cup of water as one of his lawyers patted him on the back. She stood with her hands clasped as the jury exited and glanced at her siblings – faithfully present every day of the trial – as she herself was led out of the courtroom. She did not give her lawyers a hug as she stepped out, a marked change from previous days when Maxwell and his team were often physically affectionate.
The defense had insisted that Maxwell was the victim of a vindictive lawsuit designed to do justice to women deprived of their main villain when Epstein committed suicide while awaiting trial in 2019.
During the trial, prosecutors called 24 witnesses to give jurors a picture of life inside Epstein’s homes – a subject of public fascination and speculation since his 2006 Florida arrest in a case of pedophilia.
A cleaning lady testified that he was expected to be “Blind, deaf and dumb” on the private life of Epstein, a financier who cultivated friendships with influential politicians and business moguls, and Maxwell, who had led a jet-set life as the favorite child of a media mogul.
The pilots took the witness stand and dropped the names of the luminaries – Britain’s Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump – who flew on Epstein’s private jets.
Jurors saw physical evidence like a folding massage table once used by Epstein and a “black book” which listed the contact details of some of the victims under the heading “Massages”.
There were bank statements showing he had transferred $ 30.7 million to Maxwell, his longtime companion – former girlfriend, then employee.
But the heart of the accusation was the testimony of four women who said they were victimized by Maxwell and Epstein at an early age.
Three testified using first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress; Kate, a former model from Great Britain; and Carolyn, now a recovering mom from drug addiction. The fourth, psychologist Annie Farmer, chose to use her real name after voicing her claims in recent years.
They echoed in their descriptions of Maxwell’s behavior: She used charm and gifts to gain their trust, taking an interest in their teenage challenges and giving them confidence that Epstein could use his wealth and his talents. relationships to make their dreams come true.
They said the script would darken when Maxwell tricked them into giving Epstein massages that turned sexual, encounters she performed as usual: After a sexual massage Kate, then 17, said Maxwell asked her if she was having fun and told her: “You are such a good girl.”
Carolyn said she was one of many underprivileged teenage girls who lived near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s and accepted an offer of massages in exchange for $ 100 bills, which the prosecutors described as “a pyramid of abuse.”
Maxwell made all the arrangements, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.
Jane said that in 1994, when she was just 14, she was asked to follow Epstein to a pool house on his Palm Beach estate, where he masturbated on her.
Two charges, including the one count for which Maxwell was acquitted, applied only to Jane.
“I was frozen in fear” she told the jury, adding that the assault was the first time she had seen a penis. She also directly accused Maxwell of participating in her abuse.
Maxwell’s attorney asked Jane why it took so long to come forward.
“I was afraid,” she said, fighting back tears. âI was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me.
The last to testify, Farmer described how Maxwell touched her breasts while giving her a massage at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico and how Epstein unexpectedly crawled into bed and leaned against her.
Maxwell, who turned 60 at Christmas, has vehemently denied the charges through his lawyers.
Yet she refused to take the risk of testifying, telling the judge: “The government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, so there is no reason for me to testify.”
“The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell relate to things that Jeffrey Epstein did”, one of Maxwell’s attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, pointed out before the jury. “But she’s not Jeffrey Epstein and she’s not like Jeffrey Epstein.”
Maxwell’s legal team questioned whether the accusers’ memories were flawed or had been swayed by lawyers seeking big wins from Maxwell and Epstein’s estate in civil court. During their two-day presentation, they called as a witness Elizabeth Loftus, a professor at the University of California, Irvine who testified as an expert in memory for defense attorneys in around 300 trials, including the rape trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Maxwell’s family complained that she was under duress of harsh conditions at Brooklyn Prison where she has been held since her arrest in July 2020. She had repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested bail, arguing that she ‘she was not in a position to contribute adequately to his defense.
Before Maxwell was removed from the courtroom, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim called for arrangements to be made to give him a booster shot against the coronavirus, saying infection rates increased dramatically at lockdown .
The legal battles involving Epstein and Maxwell are not over.
Maxwell is still awaiting trial on two counts of perjury.
Lawsuits are looming, including one in which a woman not involved in the trial, Virginia Giuffre, says she was coerced into sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17. Andrew has denied his account and this lawsuit should not stand trial for many months.