British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of sex trafficking
December 31, 2021 12:08 am
(Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty by a U.S. jury on Wednesday of helping the late financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls, sealing a remarkable fall from grace for the British socialite.
Maxwell, 60, was accused of recruiting and grooming four teenagers between 1994 and 2004 for Epstein, her former boyfriend who killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges of his own.
She was convicted on five of six counts, including one count of sex trafficking. Her lawyers did not immediately respond to a query on whether or not they would appeal. Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison at her yet-to-be-scheduled sentencing proceeding.
Maxwell’s trial was widely seen as the reckoning Epstein never had and one of the highest-profile cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse by famous and powerful people.
During the month-long trial, jurors heard emotional and explicit testimony from four women who portrayed Maxwell as central to their abuse by Epstein. Three of the four said Maxwell herself touched their bare breasts or took part in the encounters, which often began as massages.
Maxwell’s attorneys sought to undermine the women’s credibility, arguing that they were motivated by money to implicate Maxwell since all four had received million-dollar awards from a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims.
But the women disputed those characterizations, saying they decided to testify out of a desire for justice, not money.
“Money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” testified one woman, known by her first name Carolyn, who said Maxwell once touched her bare breasts and buttocks as she prepared to massage Epstein when she was 14 in 2002.
Carolyn’s case was at the heart of the sex trafficking charge because she said Maxwell would sometimes hand her hundreds of dollars in cash after she gave Epstein erotic massages. Epstein would masturbate during the encounters in his Palm Beach, Florida estate, Carolyn testified.
The jury deliberated for five full days before reaching the verdict.
After the verdict was read, Maxwell, wearing a burgundy turtleneck, poured herself a glass of water. Defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca patted her upper back. An expressionless Maxwell looked briefly at two siblings seated in the front row as she left the courtroom.
Maxwell will return to Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), where she has been held in isolation since July 2020. Maxwell has voiced concerns about her treatment at the jail, asserting that guards have disrupted her sleep at night and that the stench of raw sewage has permeated her cell.
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan after the verdict was read to ensure that Maxwell received her booster vaccine against COVID-19. Nathan said the shot was available at MDC, and that she would look into it.
‘ROAD TO JUSTICE’
The conditions at MDC are a far cry from the opulence that Maxwell, a daughter of British press baron Robert Maxwell, had been accustomed to most of her life.
Her father founded a publishing house and owned tabloids including the Daily Mirror. He was found dead off his yacht near the Canary Islands in 1991. Maxwell dated Epstein for several years in the 1990s, when the pair attended high society parties and traveled on luxurious private jets.
During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors bank records indicating Epstein paid Maxwell millions of dollars over the years. They said Maxwell was motivated to do whatever it took to keep Epstein happy in order to maintain her luxurious lifestyle.
Maxwell’s attorneys argued prosecutors were scapegoating her because Epstein was no longer alive.