The 60-year-old British socialite could spend the rest of her life in prison
As she sat in a New York City courtroom on Wednesday, hearing the unanimous verdict of a jury that found her guilty of five counts of sex trafficking and related crimes, British socialite Ghislaine (’Ghilen’) Maxwell did not show emotion, according to reports in the American press.
“She stood with her hands folded as the jury filed out, and glanced at her siblings — faithfully in attendance each day of the trial — as she herself was led from the courtroom,” the Associated Press said.
The crimes Maxwell was found guilty of were committed over a decade starting in 1994, at the homes of her late boyfriend and associate, convicted sex offender and financier, Jeffrey Epstein, who had killed himself (according to the medical examiner) in prison in August 2019. Maxwell had pleaded not guilty to the six charges against her.
Her demeanour and conduct in court — she started sketching the courtroom artist drawing her — was suggestive of a “certain derision for the gravity of the proceedings around her” a report in the New Yorker said.
Born in France to the late media mogul Robert Maxwell and his wife, Elizabeth, a holocaust researcher, Maxwell was the youngest of nine children. She was raised in Oxford and attended Balliol College. Like her siblings, she had a troubled relationship with her father, but eventually became his favoured child, according reports chronicling the family’s history. Robert Maxwell was born in the erstwhile Czechoslovakia in an Orthodox Jewish family, and, unlike the rest of his family, escaped the Nazis and moved to France. Eventually, he entered business in the U.K., buying the Mirror Group. He also owned media businesses elsewhere in Europe and in America.
After he died in 1991, under mysterious circumstances (his body was found floating off the coast of the Canary Islands in 1991), it came to light that he had embezzled some $1.2 billion from pension funds and his companies’ operations to deploy towards supporting the price of their stocks.
Shortly before his death, Maxwell had moved to New York, to help with her father’s new acquisition — the New York Daily News. She met Epstein there. In her childhood and youth, Maxwell had been around powerful individuals because of her parents’ connections and in New York, she would also have access to Epstein’s list of famous friends and acquaintances that included former U.S. Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and Britain’s Duke of York, Prince Andrew. The rest, as they say, is history. Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 at a remote property in New Hampshire, nearly a year after Epstein’s death.
One of the charges she was convicted on, criminal sex trafficking of a minor, carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years and all her convictions carry a total of 65 years. This means the 60-year-old could be in prison for the rest if her life.
Over the course of almost a month, jurors heard how Maxwell had facilitated encounters between Epstein and minor girls, including by identifying and grooming the girls, coaching them, and paying for their travel to Epsitein’s homes. She was also accused of being present in the room while the abuse occurred and, in some instances, directly participating in the acts herself. “Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” prosecutor Alison Moe had said during the trial.One of the victims, Annie Farmer, welcomed the verdict and said Maxwell “has caused hurt to many more women than the few of us who had the chance to testify in the courtroom”.
From the prosecution’s case emerged the story of a duo — Epstein and Maxwell — that preyed on vulnerable girls to achieve their nefarious ends. For instance, one witness, ‘Carolyn’, was already the victim of abuse by family, in need of money for drugs, had an alcoholic mother and a 17-year-old boyfriend who encouraged her to visit Epstein. Carolyn testified that when she was just 14, she began visiting the financier’s Palm Beach home — she would visit more than 100 times over the next few years. Maxwell, Carolyn said, set up the appointments in the early years.
The defence argued that the four victims who testified had accused Maxwell for financial gain (each of the four accusers had already received compensation from a fund for Epstein’s victims). They said Maxwell was being tried because of her association with Epstein and that they were “very disappointed” with the guilty verdict. An appeal is in the works.
During her testimony, Carolyn broke down when asked if she was accusing Maxwell for financial gain. “Money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” she said.
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