Court Battles

Five takeaways from the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on five of six counts by a Manhattan jury Wednesday for crimes related to the grooming and trafficking of underage girls for financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The British heiress could face up to 65 years in prison, but her defense team argued that Maxwell has been made a “scapegoat” for the crimes committed by her former partner, Epstein.

Here are the five main takeaways from the verdict.

Maxwell was convicted on some of the most serious charges 

Maxwell, 60, was found guilty of sex trafficking of minors, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three conspiracy charges. 

She was found not guilty on the charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

The trafficking charge carries a sentence of 40 years and, coupled with the other charges, Maxwell is facing decades behind bars. She will remain imprisoned at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn while she waits for a sentencing date. 

The testimony from the victims was critical 

Four victims took the stand to share detailed testimonies about the alleged abuse they suffered, including details of interactions with Maxwell and Epstein. 

Mitchell Epner, a former prosecutor who currently serves as counsel at Rottenberg Lipman Rich, told The Hill that the testimony of these witnesses was crucial because their statements established a “pattern of abuse.” 

“They each testified to a signature pattern of abuse, they acknowledged that some details of their accounts had changed over time, but the core had remained constant.”

The accusers testified that Maxwell approached them, often showering them with expensive gifts or shopping trips to build trust. 

Three of the four accusers who testified used pseudonyms to protect their identities.

​​One of the accusers, “Jane,” testified about how she met Epstein and Maxwell at the age of 14 and about the abuse she suffered, which sometimes included multiple people across Epstein’s various properties. 

Epner stated that the victims’ testimony had been corroborated and was convincing for the jury, which ultimately led to Maxwell’s conviction. 

“Once these witnesses were believed by the jury, convictions were inevitable,” Epner said.

Maxwell is facing another trial for two perjury charges

Maxwell will face another trial next year on charges that she lied under oath about Epstein’s abuse of underage girls.

Prosecutors say Maxwell lied during a 2016 deposition taken as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre. Part of Maxwell’s sworn testimony from 2016 is the basis for the charges, with prosecutors saying she lied when asked about Epstein’s activities and denied knowing of his recruitment and interactions with underage girls.

In the deposition transcript obtained by Bloomberg, Maxwell told prosecutors they were “asking me to speculate and I won’t speculate,” when asked if Epstein sexually abused minors.

The two perjury counts each carry a maximum prison sentence of five years, Reuters reported.

The trial brought Epstein’s friendship with the rich and powerful back in the spotlight

Years back, when allegations against Epstein were first brought to light, media reports uncovered that he had maintained a social circle that included former presidents, British royalty, businessmen and celebrities. 

As the trial progressed in 2021, the rich and the powerful were dragged back into the spotlight. 

Prosecutors released photos of Maxwell and Epstein vacationing at Queen Elizabeth II’s Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The two were on holiday after an invitation from Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, and testimonies of staff recalled former U.S. Presidents Clinton and Trump on Epstein’s private plane.

Pilot Lawrence Visoski, who testified at Maxwell’s trial, said that the British socialite would often contact him to schedule flights for Epstein. He said that he also piloted flights for Clinton, Andrew and Trump before he took office in 2017. However, he testified he did not witness anything to suggest sexual activity or criminal conduct by either men on the flights.

In particular, Maxwell’s case has turned up the heat on Andrew and his alleged dealings with Guiffre, who has brought a lawsuit against the Duke of York, claiming that he sexually abused her when she was underage. 

Images of Andrew with his arm around Guiffre have been released. The prince has denied allegations and maintained that the photos were manipulated. 

Most recently, lawyers for the British senior royal claimed that a U.S. court does not have jurisdiction over Guiffre’s claims because she has lived in Australia for many years.

An appeal or cooperation? What’s next for Maxwell 

Maxwell’s lawyers are working on an appeal, attorney Bobbi C. Sternheim said after the verdict was announced on Wednesday. 

“We firmly believe in Ghislaine’s innocence. Obviously, we are very disappointed with the verdict,” Sternheim said.

However, to appeal Maxwell’s conviction, her lawyers will need to prove that Judge Alison Nathan violated federal rules of evidence or abused her discretion and that it impacted the verdict. 

The Financial Times reported that it might be in Maxwell’s interest to cooperate with authorities to lessen her sentence.

Neama Rahmani, the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers told The Hill that if Maxwell cooperates with law enforcement, “the government would certainly be interested in information about other who sexually abused children along with Epstein and Maxwell, particularly politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and even an alleged member of the British royal family.”

However, he said that prosecutors will have to tread lightly for a number of reasons.  

“There is rightfully a perception that Epstein never received criminal justice because of the ‘slap on the wrist’ Alex Acosta gave him when he was U.S. Attorney in Miami, and the Department of Justice wouldn’t want to give Maxwell a similar type of deal,” Rahmani said.

“Now that she is a convicted felon and facing decades in federal prison, Maxwell may be motivated to say anything to save herself. Prosecutors would have to independently verify the names of additional abusers Maxwell provides,” he added.

According to Rahmani, Maxwell’s defense team will most likely appeal the jury’s decision, but it will have little chance of success. 

“The best basis to overturn the conviction is the argument that Judge Nathan improperly allowed a ‘prior bad acts’ victim to testify even though she was of age.  But as appellate courts in sex abuse cases like Cosby and Weinstein have held, judges generally have wide discretion in this regard, so I expect the conviction to stand,” he added.

Tags Alex Acosta Bill Clinton Donald Trump

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