Jury reaches decision in Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial
Ghislaine Maxwell, a former confidante of sex trafficker and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has been found guilty on five of six counts linked to helping the late financier groom and recruit teenage girls for abuse.
The British socialite was convicted on Wednesday, including on the most serious charge of trafficking a minor for sex, following six days of deliberation by the jury. She has yet to be sentenced, but initially faced up to 80 years in prison over the six counts.
Maxwell was found not guilty on a charge of enticing an individual under the age of 17 – identified only as Jane to protect her identity during the trial – to travel with the intent of engaging in sexual activity. However, she was found guilty of a total of five other sex crimes involving the trafficking of underage girls or conspiring to do so, according to a verdict sheet obtained by Law Crime News.
After the verdict was delivered, Maxwell reportedly showed little emotion, and was seen pulling down her face mask and pouring herself a glass of water, according to Reuters.
The jury’s deliberations began on December 20 and were briefly paused for Christmas. During that time, concerns were raised that the trial could be disrupted due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 through New York City. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan warned that an “astronomical spike” in infections could even result in a mistrial, should a significant number of jurors fall ill.
At the same time, Nathan insisted she was not trying to pressure the jury to reach the verdict faster, saying they “should take all the time” they might need.
Both Epstein’s and Maxwell’s trials included explosive allegations that minors groomed by the couple had numerous interactions with prominent public figures, including former US presidents and British royalty.
The accuser identified as Jane testified that Epstein had introduced her to Donald Trump when she was just 14, and that she had shared a flight with Britain’s Prince Andrew on the financier’s private jet. Jane did not allege any misconduct by Trump or the Duke of York, but said the two were friends with Epstein during the time he had abused her. Other known associates of Epstein included former US President Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, and Charles Althorp, the brother of the late Princess Diana.
During closing arguments last week, the prosecution said that Maxwell had been Epstein’s “partner in crime” and a “sophisticated predator” who had helped him recruit underage girls for sex. It was argued that she had “made her own choices” and “knew exactly what she was doing.”
Epstein committed suicide in his New York City prison cell as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges in 2019. Maxwell’s defense team insisted throughout the trial that she had not been involved in the abuse and was instead being scapegoated for the wealthy financier’s actions, for which he was never tried or held accountable.
“Epstein’s death left a gaping hole in the pursuit of justice for many of these women. [Maxwell is] filling that hole, and filling that empty chair,” defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said in court.