Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty in sex abuse trial

Former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein could spend the rest of her life in prison after being convicted of sex trafficking

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British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was facing decades behind bars on Wednesday after being found guilty in her sex trafficking trial for helping the late financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.

Jurors deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty of five of six counts on Wednesday evening.

Maxwell, 60, sat quietly in court, removing her mask to sip water, as Judge Alison Nathan read out the verdicts.

The most serious charge of which she was convicted, conspiring in the sex trafficking of minors, carries a maximum 40-year sentence. No date was set for her sentencing.

Maxwell had pleaded not guilty to charges over her recruitment and grooming of four teenagers between 1994 and 2004 for abuse by Epstein, the billionaire financier. She was once Epstein’s girlfriend before becoming a trusted employee.

Damian Williams, the US attorney for New York's southern district, said she was found "guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable – facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children".

"The road to justice has been far too long," Mr Williams said in a statement.

"I want to commend the bravery of the girls – now grown women – who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom. Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible."

During the month-long trial, witnesses said the pair exploited them between 1994 and 2004 at Epstein's homes, including an estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his Manhattan town house and a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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

Defence lawyers countered that Maxwell, the daughter of former British newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, was a “scapegoat” for Epstein, who killed himself in a US jail in 2019 while awaiting his own sex crimes trial.

Robert Glassman, a lawyer for one of Maxwell’s accusers, said jurors were “loud and clear”.

“If you make it easier for another to sexually abuse children, you, too, will be held accountable for your role in that abuse,” he said. “Maxwell played a critical role in helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls.”

Her lawyers tried to undermine the evidence of her accusers, saying their memories were unreliable and that they were motivated by money.

Witness lists were cut on both sides, making the trial end short of its original six-week estimate.

During the trial, Epstein’s former pilot detailed some of the big names he flew for the late financier, including Britain's Prince Andrew, actor Kevin Spacey, and former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

None of the people the pilot named were accused of wrongdoing in the criminal case against Ms Maxwell.

Prince Andrew faces a civil case that centres on accusations made by a woman who says he sexually abused her when she was a teenager.

Maxwell did not take the stand in her own defence, but in a defiant statement to the court said prosecutors had failed to prove her guilt.

The 12-person jury, which began considering Ms Maxwell's fate on December 20, resumed deliberations on Monday after a four-day Christmas break.

While conferring, they asked for legal clarifications and transcripts of the four women's evidence, as well as the evidence from other witnesses prosecutors called to corroborate their accounts.

Scores of reporters and lawyers arrived at the courthouse in Lower Manhattan each morning for the day's proceedings. They were sometimes greeted by protesters and attention-seeking conspiracy theorists, who claimed Epstein was part of an elite paedophile ring.

Updated: December 30, 2021, 7:06 AM