Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty in the case accusing her of luring and grooming underage girls for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, a verdict that offers some long-delayed justice for his victims.
The judge read the jury’s verdict in Manhattan federal court after deliberating for about five days. They found her guilty of five of the charges against her, including sex-trafficking of a minor, which carries a possible prison sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
Maxwell didn’t appear to have any reaction to the verdict, at one point brushing her hair aside and taking a drink of water. Before, while waiting for the jury to return to the courtroom, she looked down with her hands clasped, as in prayer.
The high-profile case reaches back decades and intersects with some of the biggest names on Wall Street and in high society. Maxwell, a former socialite and daughter of a disgraced publishing baron, faces the potential of years in prison.
Prosecutors said Maxwell, 60, was an integral part of Epstein’s crimes. Her lawyers argued that she was being used as a “scapegoat” for his misdeeds. Epstein died in federal custody while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial.
Four women took the stand against Maxwell, saying they were abused as teenagers. Prosecutors also put forth several former Epstein employees as witnesses to describe his relationship with Maxwell. A onetime private pilot for Epstein said he saw Maxwell as his boss’s “No. 2.”
Maxwell’s lawyers claim the government is trying to scapegoat her for the crimes of Epstein, who died in 2019 while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial. Her defense team has also relentlessly attacked the reliability of her accusers’ testimony.
The 12-member jury began deliberations on Dec. 20. Prosecutors cast the Oxford-educated Maxwell, daughter of a British publishing tycoon, as a “sophisticated predator” who often acted like a big sister, taking girls shopping or to the movies, before pushing them into sexual encounters with Epstein.
Maxwell’s defense team attacked her accusers and argued the government was targeting her because of earlier failures prosecuting Epstein. He pleaded guilty in a much-criticized 2008 deal only to soliciting a child for prostitution and served 13 months in custody, much of it on work-release.
“She’s being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein,” defense lawyer Laura Menninger said in closing arguments. “Maybe that was the biggest mistake of her life, but it was not a crime.”
Ties to Epstein led to career downfalls for former Barclays Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley and Apollo Global Management co-founder Leon Black and have besmirched the reputations of Prince Andrew, Bill Gates, Leslie Wexner, Bill Clinton and many other prominent men. All have denied knowing about or participating in inappropriate conduct with Epstein.
‘Believe Those Women’
Those names largely didn’t come up at the trial. Instead, the heart of the prosecution’s case were four accusers who testified that Maxwell enticed them into Epstein’s orbit for abuse between 1994 and 2004, when some were as young as 13. Three also said Maxwell herself participated in the abuse. They all described difficult home lives as teenagers that prosecutors said made them vulnerable to Maxwell and Epstein.
“If you believe those women, then that’s it: the defendant is guilty,” prosecutor Maurene Comey told jurors on Dec. 20.
Carolyn, who testified using only her first name, told jurors she was a middle-school dropout with an alcoholic mother when another girl said that she could make “hundreds of dollars” by going to Epstein’s Palm Beach, Florida, mansion and giving him massages. Maxwell was there when she first arrived and told the other girl “to show her what to do,” before sending both to an upstairs massage room where Epstein disrobed and a sexual encounter ensued. Carolyn was around 13 at the time.
According to prosecutors, Maxwell’s presence was often a source of false comfort to her victims. Another accuser, Annie Farmer, said she was hesitant to accept an invitation to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, supposedly to discuss her plans for college, because the financier had groped her during a previous trip to New York. But Farmer said she decided to go after she learned his girlfriend, Maxwell, would be there.
“I didn’t think anything would happen” with her there, Farmer said. She wound up being sexually abused by both of them, she testified.
The defense attacked the reliability of the accusers’ testimony, saying their memories had been tainted by time, in some cases substance abuse, sensational media accounts and possible financial gain. Prominent forensic psychologist Elizabeth Loftus took the stand as a defense expert and described for jurors the possibility of fabricated or “false memory.”
Maxwell’s lawyers seized on a number of inconsistencies between the accusers’ testimony and earlier accounts they gave to journalists or in civil lawsuits. Cross-examining Carolyn, defense lawyer Jeffrey Pagliuca pointed out that she testified that Maxwell called her to give Epstein a massage on one occasion but attributed the same call to Epstein himself in an earlier lawsuit.
“That’s what it says,” Carolyn said of the suit, “but it wasn’t accurate.”
Maxwell’s lawyers also asserted that the accusers had been motivated by the million-dollar payouts they received from a compensation fund that had been created by Epstein’s estate after his death. The defense aggressively questioned the accusers about money they received from the fund and in earlier suits, suggesting their testimony against Maxwell could somehow get them more. The women all denied having any financial incentive to testify.
US$30 Million Transfer
According to prosecutors, it was Maxwell who had economic motives for her actions. The government put on the stand former Epstein private pilot David Rodgers, who recalled that Maxwell “downsized” to a Manhattan studio apartment after the 1991 death of her father amid a massive financial scandal. Less than a decade later, she was living in a large Upper East Side townhouse. One of Maxwell’s accusers recalled that she bragged that “Jeffrey” had gotten her New York house for her.
A JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker testified that Epstein transferred more than US$30 million to Maxwell between 1999 and 2007.
“Your common sense tells you, you don’t give someone US$30 million unless they are giving you exactly what you want,” prosecutor Alison Moe told jurors. “And what Epstein wanted was to touch underage girls.”
Several former Epstein employees testified about the jet-set lifestyle shared by Epstein and Maxwell, who ostensibly managed his five homes. Two pilots described shuttling them and their guests between his properties, which included a large Manhattan townhouse and a private Caribbean island. Former Palm Beach house manager Juan Alessi testified about a 58-page rulebook Maxwell produced specifying everything from the size of notepads placed on bedside tables to the brands of toiletries stocked in each bathroom. Maxwell also dictated that employees “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing,” Alessi said.
Menninger said prosecutors lingered on Epstein’s wealth and lifestyle “just like a sensationalist tabloid would.” She urged jurors to disregard such evidence and remember that “Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein.”
But Maxwell’s lawyers sought to soften Epstein’s image as well. They put on the stand Cimberly Espinosa, a former employee in Epstein’s office, who praised him as a “giver” and recalled “a loving relationship” between him and Jane.
Eva Andersson-Dubin, a former girlfriend of Epstein and the wife of former hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin, appeared as a defense witness. She said she remained friends with Epstein after her marriage and never witnessed any inappropriate conduct by him towards underage girls. Her own children developed a fond relationship with Epstein, Andersson-Dubin said.
“They called him Uncle F,” she said.
Maxwell now faces a second trial on two perjury counts that Nathan separated out in an April ruling. Prosecutors say she lied under oath nine times during a 2016 deposition in a defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre. Maxwell allegedly falsely denied knowledge of Epstein’s activities, including his recruitment of and interaction with underage girls.