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British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of sex trafficking

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of sex trafficking

NEW YORK: British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty yesterday (Dec 29) of recruiting and grooming young girls to be sexually abused by the late American financier Jeffrey Epstein.

crimesex
By AFP

Thursday 30 December 2021, 10:56AM


Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex crimes and could face the rest of her life in prison. Photo: AFP

Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex crimes and could face the rest of her life in prison. Photo: AFP

Maxwell, who turned 60 on Christmas Day, was convicted by a 12-person jury of five of the six counts she was facing including the most serious charge of sex trafficking a minor.

She sat passively in the Manhattan courtroom, slowly removing her mask to take sips of water, as Judge Alison Nathan read out the verdicts, reached after five full days of deliberation by the jury.

The Oxford-educated daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, who grew up in wealth and privilege as a friend to royalty, could potentially spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40-year sentence. The lesser charges have terms of five or 10 years. Maxwell was found not guilty of one count - enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

Nathan offered her “sincere thanks” to the jury for their service, adding that they served with “diligence”.

After the verdict was read, Nathan adjourned the proceedings and Maxwell walked out of the courtroom into detention as she has done every day of the month-long trial.

No date was set for her sentencing.

US Attorney Damian Williams welcomed the verdict.

“A unanimous jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable - facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children,” Williams said in a statement.

“The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done.”

The charges against Maxwell stemmed from 1994 to 2004.

Two of Epstein’s alleged victims 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.

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Another, going by “Carolyn”, said she was usually paid US$300 (B10,000) 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.

Sophisticated predator’

Epstein, 66, killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting his own sex crimes trial. Maxwell, his lover-turned-close friend, was arrested the following year.

Maxwell had pleaded not guilty to all counts. The prosecution portrayed her as a “sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing.”

Prosecutor Alison 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.

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.

“They were partners in crime,” she said.

Maxwell’s defence team countered that there was a “lack of evidence” to convict and questioned the accusers’ ability to recollect quarter-century-old events.

The team also argued that Maxwell was being used as a “scapegoat” for Epstein’s crimes after he evaded justice.

Maxwell declined to take the stand during the trial but made a brief statement to the judge.

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

Maxwell’s siblings Kevin, Isabel and Christine were in the front row in the Manhattan courtroom as the verdicts were read out.

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