Ghislaine Maxwell trial: what we have learned about Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes
Jury begins deliberations after prosecution urges conviction of ‘sophisticated predator’
The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is casting fresh light on the crimes of late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein as victims describe her alleged role in the abuse.
The British socialite is accused of grooming teenage girls for the billionaire financier, who hanged himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial. Maxwell, who has been in a New York prison since her arrest last year, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and other charges. She faces up to 80 years behind bars if convicted.
The New York City jury has begun deliberations after prosecutors urged them to convict Maxwell, whom they described as a “sophisticated predator” in their closing statement.
“Ghislaine Maxwell was dangerous. She was a grown woman who preyed on vulnerable kids” and was “key to the whole operation”, assistant US attorney Alison Moe said. “It is time to hold her accountable”.
The defence accused the prosecution of “sensationalism” in its final statements to jurors.
Maxwell had “no motive” for the alleged crimes because it made no sense that “a happy, educated women in her 30s would end her career as a facilitator of sex abuse”, argued lead counsel Laura Menninger.
“Ghislaine is being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein,” she said. “Maybe it was the biggest mistake of her life, but it is not a crime.”
The jury “withdrew for an hour of deliberations” yesterday evening and will return today to “continue considering their verdict”, the BBC said.
Judge Alison Nathan has stated that jurors may choose to convict the former socialite if they “conclude she either ignored” or “consciously avoided” knowledge of Epstein’s underage sexual acts.
Maxwell, the daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, is accused of grooming teenage girls who were abused by Epstein between 1994 and 2004.
The prosecution alleges that she was integral to the abuse and sometimes participated in it. She is also accused of luring victims with cash in exchange for giving massages to Epstein that ended with sexual activity.
- In her opening statement, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz said Maxwell “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused”. Defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim argued that “the charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did, but she is not Jeffrey Epstein”.
- The trial’s first witness, Epstein’s private pilot Larry Visoski, told the court that he flew high-profile guests including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. None are accused of criminal wrongdoing. Visoski said that Epstein “was the big number one” and that Maxwell was “number two” to his former boss.
- The first of four accusers to give evidence, known by the pseudonym Jane, broke down in tears while describing her alleged abuse. She said Maxwell was “very casual, acting like it wasn’t a big deal”. The defence told the court that Jane works as an actress. Addressing the accuser, lawyer Laura Menninger said: “You are an actor who convincingly portrays someone else for a living. You are able to cry on command.”
- Epstein’s former housekeeper Juan Alessi described Maxwell as the “lady of the house”. He also told how he was ordered not to look Epstein in the eye and was expected to be “blind, deaf and dumb”. Alessi “said staff were given a 58-page instruction manual, warning them to keep Epstein’s and Maxwell’s activities or whereabouts secret”, the BBC reported.
- A second witness named only as Kate said Maxwell befriended her when she was 17 and repeatedly pressured her into supposedly “fun, silly” jokes. These so-called stunts allegedly included Maxwell giving her a schoolgirl uniform and saying: “I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit.” Kate said she wore the outfit and Epstein had sex with her.
- A third witness, named only as Carolyn, told the court that during a trip to Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s, when she was 14 years old, Maxwell had touched her breasts, hips and bottom.
- Carolyn also alleged Maxwell told her that she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends”. Carolyn said she went to the Palm Beach house up to three times a week until she turned 18.
- Jurors were presented with “never-before-seen digital evidence seized by the FBI during a 2019 raid on Epstein’s Manhattan home”, said the BBC.
- The stash included “photographs of two of Ms Maxwell’s accusers in various states of undress”, as well as images of Epstein and Maxwell “embracing or being intimate with each other”, the broadcaster added.
- Farmer, the fourth and final witness, took to the stand. Opting against using a pseudonym, she told the jury how she met Epstein for the first time at his Zorro Ranch in New Mexico when she was 16.
- Beginning her statement with the words “I am Annie Farmer”, she described how the late billionaire “caressed” her hand and “rubbed” her leg, adding: “I felt sick to my stomach, it wasn’t something that I was at all expecting.”
- A family spokesperson told The Telegraph that Maxwell would not take to the witness box in her defence due to “serious worries she is too fragile and will not be able to acquit herself properly”. It is understood that “her legal team and her family had debated over whether she should take the stand”, the paper added.
What else might we learn about Epstein?
The late billionaire’s “shadow looms over the case even in death”, with the “first of several moments of testimony” underlining “how the trial may hinge at least in part on the precise nature of her partnership with Epstein”.
The Guardian predicted last week that the trial “might reveal previously unknown details about Epstein’s world”, including “jaw-dropping details on residences that rival royals’ estates” and “his jet-setting schedule”.
At the “very least”, the paper added, “trial proceedings might contextualise how Epstein’s display of wealth so impressed people that it intimidated them”.
What does the trial mean for Prince Andrew?
Andrew already faces a civil lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges that she was forced to have sex with the Royal as a teenager. He has denied Guiffre's allegations.
“This will thrust Andrew back under the spotlight,” the unnamed lawyer told the newspaper. “It is inconceivable his name won't be introduced by the women who will testify against Maxwell.”
When will a verdict be delivered?
The trial is expected to last six weeks. Once all of the evidence has been heard, a date will be set for the verdict to be announced.