Jury deliberations begin in Ghislaine Maxwell sex-trafficking trial

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  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
  • Robert Maxwell
    Czechoslovak-born British media proprietor and Member of Parliament (1923-1991)
  • Jeffrey Epstein
    American financier

A New York jury on Monday began considering the fate of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of recruiting and grooming young girls to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, the 59-year-old daughter of the late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, faces an effective life sentence if convicted on all six counts following a high-profile three-week trial in Manhattan.

Judge Alison Nathan instructed the 12 jurors to retire to deliberate their verdict shortly before 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) following lengthy instructions about how they should weigh the sex trafficking charges.

They must reach unanimous decisions on each count. If they cannot agree, then the judge could declare a mistrial. It is unclear how long their deliberations will take.

The jurors retired to the jury room following a day of closing arguments in which US prosecutors said Maxwell was a "sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing".

Maxwell's defence team countered in its own summation, arguing that there was a "lack of evidence" to convict.

"It is time to hold her accountable," prosecutor Alison Moe said, summing up the government's case.

American money-manager Epstein, 66, killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own sex crimes trial.

Moe said Maxwell was "the key" to Epstein's scheme of enticing young girls to give him massages, during which he would sexually abuse them.

"They were partners in crime," she added.

Moe cited bank records showing that Maxwell received $30 million from Epstein between 1999 and 2007 as evidence that her participation was motivated by money.

Maxwell, wearing a cream pullover and black mask, regularly made notes that she passed to her defence counsel as Moe recounted lurid testimony given by four accusers.

Two said they were as young as 14 when Maxwell allegedly began grooming them and arranging for them to give massages to Epstein that ended in sexual activity.

One, identified only as "Jane", detailed how Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel "special".

She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Maxwell sometimes present.

Another, going by "Carolyn", said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Maxwell herself.

A third alleged victim was Annie Farmer, now 42, who said Maxwell fondled her breasts when she was a teenager at the New Mexico ranch owned by Epstein.

Laura Menninger, for the defense, questioned the women's ability to recollect quarter-century-old events, accusing them of seeking to profit from payouts from Epstein's estate.

They "all changed their stories when the Epstein compensation fund opened up", Menninger told the court.

'Not proven'

Maxwell's attorneys rested their case on Friday, putting just nine witnesses on the stand over two days as they struggled to find people to testify for the defendant.

They called psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on "false memories", whose testimony was intended to challenge the recollections of the accusers.

The defence also argued that Maxwell was being used as a "scapegoat" for Epstein's crimes after he evaded justice.

"There is no evidence that Ghislaine Maxwell groomed any of the four," Menninger said, urging the jury to acquit on all counts.

The socialite declined to take the stand but made a brief statement to the judge on Friday.

"Your honour, the government has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt so there is no need for me to testify," she said.

The trial had been expected to last into January, but Maxwell now faces the possibility of learning her fate before Christmas Day, her 60th birthday.

If the jury doesn't reach a verdict by the end of Wednesday's session, then they will reconvene on Monday.

The charges stem from 1994 to 2004. Maxwell pleaded not guilty to all counts, which carry a total of up to 80 years behind bars.

Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40-year sentence. The lesser charges have terms of five or 10 years.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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