Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on Wednesday of sex trafficking charges, ending the federal case in which she was accused of aiding Jeffrey Epstein in his decade-long program of grooming and sexually assaulting girls aged Barely 14 years old.
The Associated Press reported that Maxwell was convicted of five of the six federal charges against her. She is now facing years in prison.
In the government’s closing argument on December 20, US Deputy Attorney General Alison Moe described Maxwell as a “dangerous” woman who “preyed on vulnerable children.”
âMaxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing. She performed the same playbook over and over again, âMoe said. âShe manipulated her victims and prepared them for sexual abuse. She has caused deep and lasting harm to young girls. It’s time to hold her accountable. “
The 60-year-old daughter of a British media mogul, Maxwell is the former girlfriend and longtime partner of Epstein, the former financier and convicted sex offender, whose death in prison pending trial on federal sex trafficking charges on August 10, 2019, was ruled as suicide. With his death occurring before he faced a jury, Maxwell’s case marked a milestone in a saga that spanned decades, attracting only renewed attention after a series of articles. in the Miami Herald highlighting how the justice system failed to deal with women who said they were being abused.
She was arrested on July 20, 2020, after missing from the public eye for more than a year. (The FBI tracked Maxwell to Bradford, New Hampshire, using data and contact details from her cell phone.) She was considered at risk of absconding and has been held without bail since her arrest. She was convicted of conspiracy to induce minors to travel to engage in unlawful sexual acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy of sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor. The jury found her not guilty of inducing a minor to travel to engage in unlawful sexual acts, the AP reported.
“I want to salute the bravery of the girls – now adult women – who stepped out of the shadows and entered the courtroom,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after the verdict was announced. “Their courage and willingness to face their attacker made this case and today’s outcome possible.”
Maxwell had pleaded not guilty to all counts and refused to testify, saying “she did not need” to do so because “the government has not proven her case beyond a doubt reasonable”.
During the three-week trial, four women testified that Epstein sexually assaulted them when they were between the ages of 14 and 17, and that Maxwell helped prepare them and sometimes participated in the abuse herself. According to prosecutors and victim testimonies, Maxwell and Epstein were looking for vulnerable young girls – especially those in need of money, with single mothers and tough family lives – and made them feel special and cared for, taking them to do shopping and going to the movies, offering to pay for school and asking them questions about their lives.
Maxwell and Epstein were extremely wealthy and had many famous and powerful friends. One of the victims said she introduced her to both Donald Trump and Prince Andrew when she was 14, but did not charge either of them with misconduct. The former Epstein pilot said Trump and Prince Andrew had been passengers on the private jet, as had Bill Clinton, actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker, Senators John Glenn and George Mitchell and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Maxwell would serve as a normalizing presence during the meticulous grooming process, bringing up sexual subjects, being naked or topless around them and encouraging them to give Epstein massages. These massages were how Epstein typically initiated sexual contact with his victims – often with Maxwell in the room and instructing them how to touch him, to make the teens feel like what they were doing to them was normal, the women said. . The sexual abuse escalated after that, often several times a week for years, with the girls sometimes being flown in Epstein’s private jet to visit him in his various homes.
Maxwell was frequently present at these encounters, the women said, prompting them to perform sex acts with Epstein. At times, Maxwell was also actively involved in the sexual abuse – three of the witnesses said she touched their breasts. One said Maxwell made her wear a schoolgirl outfit to serve Epstein’s tea, and another said she was forced to participate in group sex encounters with the couple and others people.
“It made me confused because it didn’t feel right to me,” said one of the victims, who testified under the pseudonym Jane. “When you’re 14, you have no idea what’s going on.”
This is precisely what made Maxwell “the key to the whole operation,” said Moe, the prosecutor, in her closing argument.
âEpstein couldn’t have done it alone,â Moe said. âA middle-aged, single man who invites a teenage girl to visit his ranch, to come over to his house, to fly to New York, is scary. This sets off the alarm bells.
“But when this man is accompanied by a chic, smiling, respectable woman who is suitable for his age, that’s when it all starts to seem legitimate,” she continued. âAnd when this woman encourages these girls to massage this man, when she acts like it’s just okay for the man to touch these girls, it lures them into a trap. This allows the man to silence the alarm bells and get away with assaulting girls.
Throughout the trial and in their oral argument, defense attorneys tried to discredit the witnesses’ testimonies, questioning whether their memories of the abuse were wrong or even downright made up. They also repeatedly accused the women of only looking for money, pointing to the fact that all four had already received important settlements from a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims.
They also claimed Maxwell was innocent of anything Epstein might have done, suggesting she was being treated like a scapegoat because he is no longer alive to face the consequences.
In defense argument, lawyer Laura Menninger hammered home these points, saying women have “mistaken memories” and their “stories have changed dramatically over time.” She refined minor discrepancies and details the accusers weren’t sure about, even claiming one was “like an actress who forgot her lines.”
âAs we said from the start, Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,â Menninger said. âShe is on trial here for being with Jeffrey Epstein. It might have been the biggest mistake of his life, but it wasn’t a crime.
In its rebuttal, the government urged the jury not to be “distracted by [the defenseâs] absurdity.”
“It does not matter [the accusersâ stories] corroborate each other, not to mention the mountain of evidence that supports these four people, the defense desperately wants you not to believe these women, âsaid Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey. “So they throw whatever they can think of on the wall to see if something will stick, but if you think about these arguments a little bit, you’ll see they just don’t hold up.”
Comey hit back at the defense’s attempts to discredit the accusers’ memories, saying it would be like believing that “these four women had a huge false memory which turned out to include details about the accused preparing them for the same. way, using the same playbook.
âSome things that you never forget because they are etched in your brain forever,â she said.
The defense also described the idea that Maxwell – a staple in Epstein’s life – was just unaware of the abuse as a “laughable borderline.”
âOf course she knew that her boyfriend, when he spent time with teenage girlsâ¦ he did it because he was attracted to them, because he wanted to have sex with them,â Comey said. âThe suggestion she did not know borders on the absurd. “
Comey closed his rebuttal by calling on the jury to “use common sense” and believe the testimony of the four women who testified.
âThe accused never thought that these teenage girls would have the strength to report what had happened to them. In her eyes, they were just garbage, under her, âComey said. “These girls would never resist a powerful couple like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell – and if they ever did, who would believe them?”
“But the accused did not count on these teenage girls who became the women who testified in this trial – women who would be ready to take a stand and speak the truth about what happened,” he said. she declared.