British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of sex trafficking

This courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell in court for her trial on charges of sex trafficking, in New York City, on Dec 3, 2021. (Source: AFP)
This courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell in court for her trial on charges of sex trafficking, in New York City, on Dec 3, 2021. (Source: AFP)

New York, USA - British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty in New York on Wednesday of recruiting and grooming young girls to be sexually abused by the late American financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell faces spending the rest of her life behind bars after the 12-person jury convicted her on five of the six counts she was facing, including the most serious charge of sex trafficking a minor.

The conviction, just days after she turned 60 on Christmas, caps a remarkable fall from grace for the Oxford-educated daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell, who grew up in wealth and privilege as a friend to royalty.

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

Afterwards, Maxwell's attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, said her legal team was already working on an appeal and they were "confident that she will be vindicated." "We firmly believe in Ghislaine's innocence. Obviously we are very disappointed with the verdict," Sternheim told reporters outside the courthouse.

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." Maxwell walked out of the courtroom into detention as she has done every day of the month-long trial. She was not handcuffed and will return to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

No date was set for her sentencing.

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US Attorney Damian Williams welcomed the verdict, saying Maxwell had been found guilty of "the worst crimes imaginable -- facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children." "The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done," Williams said in a statement.

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.

Another, going by "Carolyn," said she was usually paid $300 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.

'Partners in crime'

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.

She pleaded not guilty to all counts.

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.

They cited bank records showing that she received $30 million from Epstein between 1999 and 2007 as evidence that her participation was motivated by money.

"They were partners in crime," Moe said.

Maxwell's defense team questioned the accusers' ability to recollect quarter-century-old events and 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.

Her siblings Kevin, Isabel and Christine were in the front row in court as their sister's fate was read out.

Pursued by reporters as they left, the family declined to comment, with Kevin Maxwell saying they would issue a statement on the verdict later.

Virginia Giuffre, who alleges Epstein lent her out for sex with his wealthy and powerful associates, including Britain's Prince Andrew -- after Maxwell introduced the royal to the financier -- welcomed the verdict in a statement on Twitter.

"My soul yearned for justice for years and today the jury gave me just that. I will remember this day always," said Giuffre, who was not an accuser in the case.

"I hope that today is not the end but rather another step in justice being served. Maxwell did not act alone. Others must be held accountable. I have faith that they will be," she said.

Prince Andrew denies the accusation.

Maxwell still faces two counts of perjury related to testimony she gave in 2016 in a defamation case filed by Giuffre. -AFP, by Peter Hutchison

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