The British former socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking in her Manhattan federal court trial on Wednesday afternoon.
Maxwell, 60, was arrested in July 2020, charged with involvement in ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls, some as young as 14.
Maxwell was convicted on five of the six charges she faced. In addition to sex-trafficking, Maxwell was found guilty of conspiracy to entice individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, conspiracy to transport individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of individuals under the age of 18.
Maxwell was found not guilty of one count: enticement of an individual under the age of 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity. Jurors reached their verdict after 40 hours of deliberations over the course of six days.
Following the guilty verdict, Damian Williams, the Manhattan US attorney, said in a statement: “A unanimous jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable: facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children. Crimes that she committed with her long-time partner and co-conspirator, Jeffrey Epstein.”
“The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done. I want to commend the bravery of the girls, now grown women, who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom,” William also said. “Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible.”
As the verdict was read, Maxwell appeared to remain expressionless and looked forward. When judge Alison Nathan finished reading the verdict, Maxwell poured herself a cup of water from a bottle of water that was in front of her and took a drink.
Nathan then asked jurors whether the verdict was unanimous. A microphone was passed from juror to juror, who all agreed that it was. One of Maxwell’s lawyers, Jeffrey Pagliuca, patted Maxwell on the back.
After Nathan dismissed the jury, another one of Maxwell’s lawyers, Bobbi Sternheim, asked whether the judge could help arrange for Maxwell to get a booster shot for Covid-19.
When Maxwell left the courtroom, she glanced quickly at her siblings, who were seated in the front row of the gallery. Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison when sentenced.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender and presumed billionaire, counted Prince Andrew and former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump as cronies before killing himself in a New York jail in 2019, about one month after his sex-trafficking arrest.
The verdict marks a dramatic conclusion to an unexpectedly fast-moving trial: proceedings were originally expected to take at least six weeks. Prosecutors called 24 witnesses over 10 days, and defense attorneys called nine witnesses over two days.
Prosecutors said that Maxwell “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused” by Epstein. There were four accusers in this case: Jane, Kate and Carolyn, who did not use their full names, and Annie Farmer.
Jane testified that she was 14 in 1994 when Epstein started to sexually abuse her – and that sometimes Maxwell was present during this abuse. At times, Maxwell participated in the abuse, Jane said. “There were hands everywhere,” Jane recalled of an encounter with Epstein and Maxwell. The abuse continued when she was 15 and 16.
Kate testified that she met Maxwell in Paris around 1994, at age 17. Maxwell extended a tea invitation to her London townhouse shortly after they met, and introduced Kate to Epstein at a subsequent meeting.
Several weeks later, Maxwell called Kate, and said: “Jeffrey was meant to get a massage but the massage therapist had canceled. Could I do her a favor and come over … because I had strong hands.”
Kate testified that Maxwell led her upstairs, where Epstein was wearing a robe. Maxwell closed the door, leaving them alone; Epstein initiated sexual contact. Kate saw Epstein a few times annually over the next several years.
Carolyn said that she wound up in Maxwell and Epstein’s orbit around the early 2000s, when she was 14-years-old, at his Palm Beach mansion.
Carolyn said she went to Epstein’s house “over 100 times” from ages 14 to 18, and testified about a physical encounter with Maxwell while setting up a massage table.
“I was getting fully nude, and she came in and felt my boobs and my hips and my buttocks and said … that I had a great body for Mr Epstein and his friends. She just said that I had a good body type,” Carolyn said.
Annie Farmer, the only accuser to testify under her full name rather than a pseudonym or first name, testified that Maxwell gave her a nude massage when she was only 16 at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch.
Farmer met Epstein in late 1995, when she traveled to visit her sister, Maria, in New York City. Maria worked as a fine art painter for Epstein.
In spring 1996, her mother informed the teen that she would be traveling to Epstein’s ranch, believing it was an educational retreat for high school students.
Annie didn’t want to go – Epstein had touched her hand when they went to a movie in New York – but felt better knowing a woman, Maxwell, would be there.
Following an excursion into town, Maxwell said she’d teach Annie to give Epstein a foot massage. Then, Maxwell said she wanted Annie to have the “experience” of a professional massage.
“She said to get undressed and get [under] the sheet on the massage table, and I did,” Annie said, saying a table was set up in the room where she was staying. “She pulled the sheet down and exposed my breasts, and started rubbing on my chest and on my upper breast.”
The verdict means jurors agreed that Maxwell had conspired to lure, and shuttle, girls for illicit sexual activity – and that she had conspired to sex-traffick them. They agreed that Maxwell transported Jane for illegal sexual activity. The sex-trafficking count related specifically to Carolyn.
Maxwell has maintained her innocence. Bobbi Sternheim, Maxwell’s lead defence, said outside the court: “We firmly believe in Ghislaine’s innocence, obviously. We are very disappointed with the verdict. We have already started working on the appeal and we are confident she will be vindicated. Everyone be healthy, have a happy new year.”
Maxwell’s brother, Kevin Maxwell, said the family believes she will be vindicated on appeal. “We firmly believe in our sister’s innocence,” he said in a written statement.
Reactions streamed in following the verdict. Annie Farmer, who testified at the trial, said: “I am so relieved and grateful that the jury recognized the pattern of predatory behavior that Maxwell engaged in for years and found her guilty of these crimes … I hope that this verdict brings solace to all who need it and demonstrates that no one is above the law. Even those with great power and privilege will be held accountable when they sexually abuse and exploit the young.”
Virginia Giuffre, one of Maxwell and Epstein’s most prominent accusers, said: “My soul yearned for justice for years and today the jury gave me just that. I will remember this day always. Having lived with the horrors of Maxwell’s abuse, my heart goes out to the many other girls and young women who suffered at her hands and whose lives she destroyed.”
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Edward Helmore and the Associate Press contributed reporting.
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html.
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