NEW YORK – British celebrity Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty on Wednesday of luring teenage girls to sexual abuse by American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
The verdict crowned a month-long trial of filthy reports of sexual exploitation of girls aged 14, narrated by four women who had been described as teenagers in Epstein’s palatial homes in Florida, New York in the 1990s and early 2000s and New Mexico being molested.
The jury deliberated five full days before finding Maxwell guilty on five of six counts. When the verdict was read, Maxwell seemed to show little reaction from behind a black mask. She stood with her hands clasped as the jury went out and glanced at her siblings as she herself was led out of the courtroom, but was otherwise stoic.
She faces the likelihood of years in prison – an outcome long sought by women who fought for years in civil courts to hold Maxwell accountable for her role in recruiting and caring for Epstein’s juvenile victims, and sometimes for sexual abuse to pull.
The defense had insisted that Maxwell was the victim of a vengeful charge designed to bring justice to women robbed of their main villain when Epstein killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial.
During the trial, prosecutors called 24 witnesses to give the jury a picture of life in Epstein’s homes – an issue of public fascination and speculation since his arrest in Florida in 2006 in a child sex case.
A housekeeper testified that he was expected to be “blind, deaf, and dumb” in the personal life of Epstein, a financier who made friends with influential politicians and business tycoons, and Maxwell, who is the favorite child of. one media mogul had led a jet setting lifestyle.
Pilots took the stand and dropped the names of luminaries – Britain’s Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump – who had flown in Epstein’s private jets.
Some of the abuse took place at Epstein’s sprawling ranch in Santa Fe County.
In 1993, Epstein bought the 10,000 acre property called Zorro Ranch in the small community of Stanley from former New Mexico Governor Bruce King. He built a 26,700-square-foot mansion on a hill on the site along with an aircraft hangar and runway.
Eventually, Epstein began making connections in the state, mostly through campaign donations. Governor Bill Richardson was one of many New Mexico politicians with ties to the billionaire.
Under the name Zorro Trust, Epstein gave Richardson’s gubernatorial campaign $ 50,000 in both 2002 and 2006.
Epstein donated $ 15,000 to Gary King, the son of the former governor, in 2006 when the younger king ran for attorney general. Epstein also gave $ 10,000 that year to Jim Baca, who was running for land commissioner in the Democratic primary, and $ 2,000 to then-Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.
But after Epstein was charged with soliciting girls for sex in Florida that year, Richardson’s campaign and most of the others said they donated his donations to charity.
Epstein pleaded guilty to the Florida case in what turned out to be a secret deal between prosecutors and federal attorneys that enabled him to avoid prosecution on more serious federal sex crimes charges against children. His political contributions became more covert afterwards.
In 2014, Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Gary King received five donations totaling $ 35,000 from five US Virgin Islands companies that turned out to be Epsteins.
King returned the posts after they were revealed by The New Mexican.
In Maxwell’s trial, the jury saw evidence such as a folding massage table once used by Epstein and a “black book” listing contact information for some victims under the heading “massages.” There were bank records showing that he had transferred $ 30.7 million to Maxwell, his longtime companion – a former girlfriend, future employee.
But the crux of the charge was the testimony of four women who said they were bullied by Maxwell and Epstein when they were young.
Three said they used first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress; Kate, a former model from Great Britain; and Carolyn, now a mother recovering from drug addiction. The fourth was Annie Farmer, a psychologist who chose to use her real name after having voiced her allegations out loud over the past few years.
They repeated themselves in her descriptions of Maxwell’s behavior: she used charms and gifts to gain their trust, interested in their teenage challenges, and assured them that Epstein could use his wealth and connections to make their dreams come true.
They said the script would darken if Maxwell persuaded her to give Epstein massages that turned sexual, encounters she acted out as usual: After a sexual massage, Kate, then 17, said Maxwell asked her if she was having fun and told her, “You are such a good girl.”
Carolyn testified that she was one of several disadvantaged teenagers who lived near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s who accepted an offer to give massages in exchange for $ 100 bills that prosecutors call “a pyramid of abuse.” “designated.
Maxwell had made all the arrangements, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.
Jane said in 1994 that when she was only 14 she was ordered to follow Epstein to a pool house on his Palm Beach estate where he masturbated on her.
The only reason Maxwell was acquitted and induced a minor to travel to commit illegal sexual activity was only for Jane.
“I was frozen in fear,” she told the jury, adding that it was the first time she had seen a penis. She also directly accused Maxwell of being involved in her abuse.
Maxwell’s attorney asked Jane why it took so long to get in touch.
“I was scared,” she said, suppressing tears. “I was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to find out about me. “
The last to testify, Farmer described how Maxwell touched her breasts while giving her a massage at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, and how Epstein unexpectedly crawled into bed and hugged her.
Maxwell, 60, vehemently denied the charges through her attorneys.
Still, she refused to take the risk of testifying, telling the judge, “The government has not proven her case beyond doubt, so there is no reason for me to testify.”
“The indictment against Ghislaine Maxwell relates to things that Jeffrey Epstein did,” said one of Maxwell’s lawyers, Bobbi Sternheim, before the jury. “But she’s not Jeffrey Epstein and she’s not like Jeffrey Epstein.”
Maxwell’s legal team questioned whether the prosecutor’s memories were flawed or influenced by attorneys demanding large payouts from Maxwell and Epstein’s estate in a civil court.
During their two-day presentation, they called Elizabeth Loftus as a witness, a professor at the University of California at Irvine who has testified as a memory expert on the defense in about 300 trials, including the rape trial of film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
She said the memory can be tainted by suggestions from an interviewer, especially law enforcement or the media.
Maxwell’s family – faithfully present every day of the trial – complained that the harsh conditions in Brooklyn Prison, where she has been detained since her arrest in July 2020, were being forced to defend them adequately.
The litigation between Epstein and Maxwell is not over yet.
Maxwell is still awaiting trial for double perjury.
Lawsuits over the abuse allegations also continue, including one in which an off-trial woman Virginia Giuffre says she was forced to have sexual encounters with Prince Andrew at the age of 17. Andrew has denied her account, and this lawsuit is not expected to come to court for many months.
Giuffre also claims she was raped by Epstein at his New Mexico ranch.
Additional coverage was provided by The New Mexican.
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