Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of helping Jeffrey Epstein abuse girls

A sketch of Maxwell in court
Ghislaine Maxwell is seen during the trial in a court sketch

Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty of recruiting and trafficking young girls to be sexually abused by the late American financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The 60-year-old was found guilty on five of the six counts she faced – including the most serious charge, that of sex trafficking a minor. The verdict was reached after five full days of deliberation by a 12-person jury in New York.

It means the British socialite could spend the rest of her life behind bars. Maxwell showed no visible sign of emotion as the verdict was read out on Wednesday, only pouring herself a glass of water which she sipped from twice.

Shortly after the verdict, her legal team said they were already working on an appeal. Teresa Helm, one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers, praised the women that testified during the trial.

“Justice takes the lead today,” she said. “I am consumed with gratitude for every brave, courageous and justice driven person that has fought for this outcome. “Ghislaine Maxwell will never again have the opportunity to take anything from anyone. She will reside on the other side of freedom.”

She was found not guilty of one count – enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. US Attorney Damian Williams welcomed the verdict and commended the “bravery” of the victims who came forward. “A unanimous jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable – facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children,” the statement said.

The first time I saw Ghislaine Maxwell, I followed her from the door of her luxurious brownstone down the streets of Manhattan, asking her about the horrific allegations against her. A decade later, I saw her for the final time, in court and no longer able to run away from the truth about her life with Jeffrey Epstein. This sex trafficking ring was not for profit but for the sick pleasure of the two powerful individuals.

The pair ran in influential social circles and often name-dropped friends in high places such as Bill Clinton, Donald Trump or Prince Andrew. That enchanted their victims, lured by gifts and promises to help their careers and schooling. Prosecutors said the process of “grooming” teenage girls for abuse was a key part of Maxwell’s “playbook”.

Their jaw-dropping wealth and connections were also key in another way – they intimidated and silenced their victims and shielded the duo from scrutiny. Maxwell, a longtime associate of convicted child sex offender Epstein, has been in jail since her arrest last July. Epstein took his own life in 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial.

A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. During the month-long trial, Maxwell’s lawyers argued that she was a scapegoat for Epstein’s crimes while prosecutors sought to link the duo as “partners in crime” who ran a “pyramid scheme of abuse”.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

Four women took the stand at the trial. All said they had been sexually abused by Epstein before they turned 18, and that Maxwell had urged, facilitated and even participated in the sexual encounters. Only one woman, Annie Farmer, used her real name in her testimony, while the others used pseudonyms to protect their identity.

“Ghislaine Maxwell made her own choices. She committed crimes hand in hand with Jeffrey Epstein. She was a grown woman who knew exactly what she was doing,” Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe said. It is not yet clear when Maxwell will be sentenced.

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