Ghislaine Maxwell trial: jury begins deliberations

Socialite's sex abuse case now in the hands of her peers after closing arguments delivered

Ghislaine Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if found guilty of six counts of recruiting and grooming young girls to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein. AFP
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The fate of Ghislaine Maxwell is now squarely in the hands of a jury.

The jury received the case in Ms Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial just before 5pm on Monday in New York City, after prosecutors and Maxwell’s defence attorneys delivered closing arguments.

For their time US prosecutors urged a New York jury to convict Ms Maxwell of the sex trafficking of minors, saying in that the British socialite was a “sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing".

Ms Maxwell faces an effective life sentence if found guilty of six counts of recruiting and grooming young girls to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein, her long-time companion.

“It is time to hold her accountable,” prosecutor Alison Moe said, summing up the government's case following almost three weeks of evidence in the high-profile trial in Manhattan.

American money-manager Epstein killed himself in jail two years ago while awaiting his own sex crimes trial.

Ms Moe said Ms Maxwell was “the key” to Epstein's scheme of enticing young girls to give him massages, during which he would sexually abuse them.

“They were partners in crime,” she told the 12-person jury.

Lawyers for Ms Maxwell said she was an “innocent woman” and that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms Maxwell was aware of or involved in the late financier's alleged crimes.

“They certainly proved to you that Epstein had abused his money and his power,” defence lawyer Laura Menninger said. “That has nothing to do with Ghislaine and everything to do with Jeffrey Epstein.”

Two of Ms Maxwell's accusers said they were as young as 14 when she 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 Ms Maxwell recruited her at summer camp and made her feel “special".

The jury receives their instructions before beginning deliberations during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the Jeffrey Epstein associate accused of sex trafficking, in a courtroom sketch in New York City. Reuters

She said sexual encounters with Epstein became routine, with Ms Maxwell sometimes present.

Another, going by “Carolyn”, said she was usually paid $300 after sexual encounters with Epstein, often by Ms Maxwell herself.

The defence has sought to portray the accounts of her four accusers as not credible. Ms Menninger said the women were motivated to implicate Ms Maxwell by the prospect of a payout from a victim's compensation fund run by Epstein's estate.

“The money brought the accusers to the FBI,” Ms Menninger said, claiming the women brought personal injury lawyers with them to interviews with law enforcement agents decades after the alleged abuse occurred.

“Memories have been manipulated in aid of the money.”

The conspiracy to commit the sex trafficking of minors carries a maximum 40-year sentence. The lesser charges have terms of five or 10 years.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: December 20, 2021, 10:06 PM