British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced in Epstein sexual abuse case

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on Wednesday of luring teenage girls to be sexually assaulted by American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The verdict capped a month-long trial featuring sordid tales of sexual exploitation of girls as young as 14, told by four women who described being abused as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s. 2000s in Epstein’s lavish homes in Florida, New York and New Mexico.

Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty on five of the six counts. With maximum prison terms on each charge ranging from five to 40 years in prison, Maxwell faces years behind bars – a result long sought by women who have spent years fighting in civil courts to hold her accountable. its role in recruitment and preparation. Epstein’s teenage victims and sometimes join in the sexual abuse.

Upon reading the verdict, Maxwell was largely stoic behind a black mask. Afterwards, she was seen pouring water on herself while one of her lawyers patted her on the back. She stood with her hands clasped as the jury exited and glanced at her siblings – faithfully present every day of the trial – as she herself was led out of the courtroom. She did not give her lawyers a hug as she stepped out, a marked change from previous days when Maxwell and his team were often physically affectionate.

One of her victims, Annie Farmer, said she was grateful the jury recognized Maxwell’s “pattern of predatory behavior”.

“She has harmed many more women than the few of us who were fortunate enough to testify in the courtroom,” she said in a prepared statement. “I hope this verdict will bring comfort to all who need it and demonstrate that no one is above the law. Even those with great power and great privilege will be held accountable when they sexually abuse and exploit young people. “

US Prosecutor Damian Williams praised the victims who testified against Maxwell after experiencing what he called “one of the worst crimes imaginable”.

“I want to salute the bravery of the girls – now adult women – who stepped out of the shadows and entered the courtroom. Their courage and willingness to face their attacker made this case and today’s outcome possible, ”he said in a statement.

No sentencing date has been set.

The defense had insisted that Maxwell was the victim of a vindictive lawsuit designed to do justice to women deprived of their main villain when Epstein committed suicide while awaiting trial in 2019.

Her brother, Kevin Maxwell, said the family believed she would be justified on appeal. “We strongly believe in the innocence of our sister,” he said in a written statement.

During the trial, prosecutors called 24 witnesses to give jurors a picture of life inside Epstein’s homes – a subject of public fascination and speculation since his 2006 Florida arrest in a case of pedophilia.

A housekeeper said he was supposed to be “blind and deaf and dumb” about the private life of Epstein, a financier who cultivated friendships with influential politicians and business tycoons, and Maxwell, who had led a jet-set life as the favorite child of a media mogul.

The pilots took the witness stand and dropped the names of the luminaries – Britain’s Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump – who flew on Epstein’s private jets.

Jurors saw physical evidence like a folding massage table once used by Epstein and a “black book” that listed the contact details of some of the victims under the heading “massages.”

There were bank documents showing he had transferred $ 30.7 million to Maxwell, his longtime companion – a former girlfriend, later employed.

But the heart of the accusation was the testimony of four women who said they were victimized by Maxwell and Epstein at an early age.

Three testified using first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress; Kate, a former model from Great Britain; and Carolyn, now a recovering mom from drug addiction. The fourth was Farmer, who chose to use his real name after voicing his claims in recent years.

They echoed in their descriptions of Maxwell’s behavior: She used charm and gifts to gain their trust, taking an interest in their teenage challenges and giving them confidence that Epstein could use his wealth and his talents. relationships to make their dreams come true.

They said the script would darken when Maxwell tricked them into giving Epstein massages that turned sexual, encounters she performed as usual: After a sexual massage Kate, then 17, said Maxwell asked her if she was having fun and said, “You are such a good girl.”

Carolyn said she was one of many underprivileged teenage girls who lived near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s and accepted an offer of massages in exchange for $ 100 bills, which prosecutors have described it as “a pyramid of abuse”.

Maxwell made all the arrangements, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.

Jane said that in 1994, when she was just 14, she was asked to follow Epstein to a pool house in the Palm Beach Estate, where he masturbated on her.

Two charges, including the one count for which Maxwell was acquitted, applied only to Jane.

“I was frozen with fear,” she told the jury, adding that the assault was the first time she had seen a penis. She also directly accused Maxwell of participating in her abuse.

Maxwell’s attorney asked Jane why it took so long to come forward.

“I was scared,” she said, fighting back tears. “I was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me.

The last to testify, Farmer described how Maxwell touched her breasts while giving her a massage at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico and how Epstein unexpectedly crawled into bed and leaned against her.

Maxwell, who turned 60 at Christmas, has vehemently denied the charges through his lawyers.

Still, she refused to take the risk of testifying, telling the judge, “The government has not proven her case beyond a reasonable doubt, so there is no reason for me to testify.”

“The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell relate to acts committed by Jeffrey Epstein,” 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 accusers’ memories were flawed or had been swayed by lawyers seeking big wins from Maxwell and Epstein’s estate in civil court. During their two-day presentation, they called Elizabeth Loftus, a professor who testified as a memory expert for defense attorneys as a witness in around 300 trials, including the rape trial of the tycoon of the Harvey Weinstein cinema.

Maxwell’s family complained that she was under duress of harsh conditions at Brooklyn Prison where she has been held since her arrest in July 2020. She had repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested bail, arguing that she ‘she was not in a position to contribute adequately to his defense.

Before Maxwell was removed from the courtroom, Sternheim called for arrangements to be made to give him a coronavirus booster, saying infection rates increased dramatically on lockdown. The recent increase threatened to derail the trial itself as United States District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan urged jurors to work quickly to avoid the risk of trial nullification caused by jurors sick.

The legal battles involving Epstein and Maxwell are not over.

Maxwell is still awaiting trial on two counts of perjury.

Lawsuits are looming, including one in which a woman not involved in the trial, Virginia Giuffre, says she was coerced into sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17. Andrew has denied his account and this lawsuit should not stand trial for many months.

Following Maxwell’s verdict, Giuffre issued a statement through his lawyers, saying: “I hope today is not the end but rather another step in justice.”

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