Ghislaine Maxwell: Jury finds socialite guilty on five charges in sex trafficking trial

Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of five of the six charges against her at her sex trafficking trial in New York on Wednesday night.

The verdict capped a monthlong case featuring sordid accounts of the sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teens at Jeffrey Epstein’s palatial homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.

The British socialite was found guilty of conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, and sex trafficking of minors.

Maxwell was only found not guilty of one charge: enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

In all, the five guilty charges could carry a combined sentence of up to 65 years in prison.

Maxwell, 60, had pleaded not guilty to all six federal counts.

She showed little reaction as the verdicts were read aloud, but calmly poured a glass of water before taking sips. One of her lawyers, Jeffery Pagliuca, put his arm around her. Maxwell’s legal team said they were working on an appeal. She was then led out by marshalls, unshackled, and made a final glimpse behind her before leaving the courtroom for the last time.

Maxwell’s siblings, Kevin, Isabel, and Christine, were similarly stoic.

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The verdict was reached after six days of deliberation by a 12-person jury. The jury spent nearly 40 hours deliberating from 20 December to 29 December, with a four-day hiatus for the Christmas holiday.

Judge Alison Nathan asked each member of the jury if this was their unanimous decision, to which they all said yes. She then thanked them for their diligence under the difficult circumstances in which the trial had taken place.

“I’m very grateful to each and every one of you,” Judge Nathan said.

US attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York, where the trial was held, praised the verdict 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,” Mr Williams said. “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.”

Mr Williams also thanked the women who came forward to accuse Maxwell.

“I want to commend the bravery of the girls – now grown women – who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom,” he said. “Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible.”

The prosecution’s case hinged on the testimony of four women, who said they were sexually exploited by Maxwell and Epstein as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Two testified under the pseudonyms “Jane” and “Kate”, a third went only by her first name Carolyn, while Annie Farmer gave evidence under her full name.

They told of being lured into Epstein’s orbit under the false impression that Maxwell was a “sisterly” figure who wanted to help them with scholarships and introduce them to her network of powerful contacts.

Prosecutors described Maxwell as a “sophisticated predator” who had ran a playbook of abuse “again and again” as she targeted vulnerable young girls, and acted as an “age-appropriate” cover for Epstein’s offending.

Epstein died by suicide in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking offences.

Similarities between the testimony of four women who said they were abused as teenagers was “incredibly powerful evidence of the defendant’s guilt”, according to the prosecution.

Defence attorneys had argued Maxwell was a scapegoat for Epstein’s crimes, and was made to look like “Cruella de Vil and The Devil Wears Prada all wrapped up into one”.

“Ghislaine is being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein. Maybe it was the biggest mistake of her life. But it is not a crime,” Laura Menninger said in her closing argument to the jury on Monday.

Maxwell had displayed an upbeat demeanour at the outset of the trial, hugging her defence attorneys and passing handwritten notes to them, chatting to her siblings in the front row of the public gallery, and listening closely to the evidence.

Towards the end of the trial, she showed signs of fatigue and frustration at the way the trial had unfolded. During prosecutor Maureen Comey’s closing rebuttal on Monday, she shook her head and wiped away tears as the US assistant attorney attacked the defence’s portrayal of the four accusers.