Ghislaine Maxwell Sex Trafficking Trial: Verdict Announced
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Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty of helping American financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls in a landmark ruling.
The jury at Manhattan Federal Court, New York found the 60-year-old socialite guilty on all but one count in the hearing on Wednesday.
Maxwell was found guilty of five charges in total, including sex trafficking of an individual under the age of 18.
The verdict comes after a high-profile, month-long trial featuring sordid accounts of the sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s at Epstein’s homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty of five of six counts. They had heard how Maxwell groomed vulnerable girls for the convicted paedophile and disgraced financier.
A statement from the US attorney’s office said: “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.
“Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible.
“I also want to thank the career prosecutors of the Southern District of New York, who embraced the victims’ quest for justice and have worked tirelessly, day in and day out, to ensure that Maxwell was held accountable for her crimes.
“This office will always stand with victims, will always follow the facts wherever they lead, and will always fight to ensure that no-one, no matter how powerful and well connected, is above the law.”
Maxwell is thought to have remained closely associated with Epstein until he was prosecuted to procuring a child for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute in 2008.
After Epstein was arrested again in 2019, Maxwell effectively went into hiding, communicating with the courts only through her lawyers.
She was found in a remote New Hampshire location in July last year, after the FBI managed to track Maxwell's location through mobile phone calls to her sister Isobel and her legal representatives.
Throughout the lengthy trial, prosecutors for the state called several witnesses to testify against Maxwell, including four women who claim to be assaulted by Epstein.
They had 10 days' worth of testimony, compared to Maxwell’s defence, which only offered two.
In her closing argument for the prosecution, Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe said: “Maxwell ran the same playbook again and again. She groomed them. She caused deep and lasting harm to young girls. It is time to hold her accountable.
“She was a grown women who preyed on vulnerable kids. She targeted a girl whose father had just died. She targeted a girl whose mother was an alcoholic. She targeted a girl with a single mom who was struggling to raise her daughters.”
The prosecution also referenced the $30 million (£22.6 million in today’s money) that Epstein wired to Maxwell.
“You don’t give someone $30 million unless they’re giving you exactly what you want, and what Epstein wanted was to touch underage girls,” Moe said. “When Maxwell took that money, she knew what it was for and now you do, too.”
The defence tried to argue that Maxwell was being used as a scapegoat for Epstein, as the paedophile was never tried in a court for his extensive list of crimes; he died by suicide while awaiting trial in 2019.
Closing for the defence, attorney Laura Menniger told the jury: “I am not here to defend Jeffrey Epstein. He is not my client.
“The US presented evidence like a sensational tabloid. These were things that Epstein did, perhaps, his crimes. But Ghislaine Maxwell is not Epstein.”
Maxwell refused to testify in her defence in court. She told the judge: “Your honour, the government has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and so there’s no reason for me to testify.”
The court case has seen many powerful and high profile names mentioned, due to Maxwell and Epstein's close friendships with politicians and royalty.
One figure that has been closely linked with the coverage is Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is now facing his own civil court case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Guiffre claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew in 2001 when she was just 17, when she was trafficked by Epstein.
Prince Andrew has denied all charges against him.