British Socialites are great, except for the sex trafficking stuff.
Ghislaine Maxwell Found Guilty in Sex-Trafficking Case
Verdict caps yearslong effort to seek justice for Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers
By James Fanelli and Corinne Ramey, WSJ
Updated Dec. 29, 2021 5:27 pm ET
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty Wednesday on five of six criminal counts in her sex-trafficking case, capping federal prosecutors’ push to bring the longtime confidante of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to justice.
After five days of deliberations, a federal jury in New York convicted Ms. Maxwell on Wednesday for what prosecutors said was her role in helping Epstein sexually abuse underage teens.
On the most serious count, sex trafficking of minors, the jury found Ms. Maxwell guilty. That count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The verdict followed a yearslong effort to bring closure to scores of accusers of Epstein, who died while in jail on sex-trafficking charges. Epstein’s presence loomed over Ms. Maxwell’s three-week trial, during which federal prosecutors said she recruited and groomed teens for sex acts with him between 1994 and 2004, often under the pretext of procuring massages.
Four women provided graphic testimony about how Epstein sexually abused them at his properties while they were teenagers. They told the jury that Ms. Maxwell instructed them on how to give massages and, in some instances, touched their breasts or took part in the abuse. She also called them to arrange meetups with Epstein, some of the accusers said.
Ms. Maxwell, 60 years old, pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyers said she was a scapegoat who wasn’t indicted until nearly a year after Epstein died in a federal jail in August 2019 while awaiting his own sex-trafficking trial. The New York City medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.
Ms. Maxwell, who was living in a quiet New Hampshire town when she was arrested, has been in federal jail since July 2020. She still faces another criminal trial on two perjury charges for allegedly lying during a deposition. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Before her arrest, Ms. Maxwell led a jet-setting lifestyle, hobnobbing in elite circles.
Educated at the University of Oxford, Ms. Maxwell speaks several languages and can pilot a helicopter. She and Epstein dated in the 1990s. The two remained close after their relationship ended, and she continued to manage his estates around the world.
Epstein amassed a half-billion-dollar fortune by leveraging his ties to rich and powerful people. His vast wealth and connections frequently came up at Ms. Maxwell’s trial. Some witnesses spoke of seeing photos of him with famous figures, including Fidel Castro and a pope. Others talked about celebrities who flew on his jets.
In all, prosecutors called two dozen witnesses, including former pilots and staff for Epstein.
A former manager of Epstein’s Palm Beach, Fla., estate told the jury that Ms. Maxwell was the “lady of the house” who ordered workers to avoid eye contact with Epstein and provided a house manual that instructed them not to speak of what they saw.
Jurors were also shown photos of Ms. Maxwell and Epstein to illustrate how close the two were. Some showed her giving him a foot massage on one of his private jets.
One accuser, who testified under the pseudonym Jane, said she was being raised by a single mother when she met Epstein and Ms. Maxwell at a camp for talented teens. He later invited the teen to his Palm Beach home, paid for her vocal lessons and flew her on his jet for trips to New York, Jane said. She was repeatedly sexually abused starting at age 14, Jane said.
Another accuser, Annie Farmer, told the jury that her sister introduced her to Epstein and that he had taken an interest in her schooling, offering to pay for a summer immersion trip to burnish her college application.
Ms. Farmer said that when she was 16, she spent a weekend alone with Ms. Maxwell and Epstein at his New Mexico ranch. Ms. Maxwell at one point told her to undress and gave her a massage, touching her breasts, Ms. Farmer said. At another point, Epstein hopped into the then-teen’s bed and pressed his body against hers to cuddle, Ms. Farmer recalled.
Throughout the trial, Ms. Maxwell would sit and confer with her team of lawyers. Eight witnesses testified for the defense, including a memory expert who told the jury that research showed people could develop memories of events that never happened.
During cross-examinations, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers tried to undermine her accusers’ testimony by pointing out inconsistencies in what they had previously told investigators. Some accusers had previously sued Epstein over the abuse but didn’t mention Ms. Maxwell in their lawsuits, the lawyers said.
“The government recovered memories that Ghislaine was involved, that Ghislaine was the culprit,” defense attorney Laura Menninger told the jury, adding that the memories were false and changed over time.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers also questioned the accusers’ financial motivations, saying they had an inducement to testify because they each received an award from a victims’ compensation fund financed by Epstein’s estate.
The accusers said that they weren’t after money.
“I am here to hopefully finally find some sort of closure to all of this,” Jane said. “This is something that I have been running from my entire life up until now, and I’m just tired of it.”
Write to Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com